'Twilight' Vampire Novels Spur Mom-Daughter Bonding

When Sara Swiokla borrowed the romance novel "Twilight" from a friend at school, she knew how she wanted to enjoy it: under the covers with a flashlight, reading the chapters aloud with her mom. Sara, 15, and her mother, Joyce, 49, giggled and cried and stayed up late on a school night—it was, Sara says, like a sleepover with friends.

The young adult series by Stephenie Meyer chronicles the seductive relationship between mousy Bella Swan and dangerously dashing Edward Cullen, who just happens to be a vampire. But Meyer's books have proved seductive in another way, and we don't mean as publishing's 7.5 million-copy selling Next Big Thing. The "Twilight" books—"Breaking Dawn," the fourth and final volume in the series, which is due out on Aug. 2—have also turned into a remarkable mother-daughter bonding exercise.

One reason for that is the way they deal with sexual issues. Meyer, who is Mormon, has said that she doesn't want Bella and Edward to have sex before marriage. For most romance novels, the "no sex, please," notion would be blasphemous. But Meyer's fans have embraced it like a couple of teenagers just cuddling on the couch. Many mothers say they've used the books as a way to begin that awkward birds-and-bees talk with their teenage daughters. "I can discuss sex without being preachy because, well, we're just talking about Twilight," says Mary Ann Hill, mother to Tara, 13. "It's non-threatening and I see the book as extra support for what I want to teach anyway."

With roughly 50 percent of teenagers having sex before leaving high school, it's a starting point many parents are thankful for. Messages about teenage sex are everywhere: OMFG Gossip Girl ads, Jamie Lynn Spears' pregnancy, and the hit movie Juno. The new "Twilight," too, is far from pure. Edward is driven crazy by the very scent of Bella, and she kisses him so passionately she forgets to breathe. Members of the fan site TwilightTeens list their locations with the suggestive "Under Edward's bed" and sport the online names such as "EdwardsSoulMate" or "TwilightLover." But all of this innuendo merely reinforces the fact that they're actually not "doing" anything, and perhaps, makes purity more appealing to the teenage girls devouring the series. "A lot of people don't wait until they're married," Sara Swiokla says. "But reading it makes you want to save your virginity more because it's a really special thing that you want to share with a really special person.

Hill worried about allowing her then 12-year-old daughter to read "Twilight." She didn't think Tara was old enough to understand or relate to the 17-year-old characters. But when her daughter persisted, Hill decided it was silly to stop her from picking up the 500-page book. Every day, Hill would check on her daughter's progress so they could discuss what she'd read. Hill is glad she did, figuring it's better to talk through those feelings and situations before Tara is thrust into them in a few years. "When I was reading, I wondered, can I read this next paragraph without having to edit it?" Joyce Swiokla says. "But we read the whole thing and I never cringed. It showed that guys will like you even if you don't want to have sex right away, which is so different from everything being thrown at girls right now."

"Twilight" may have sparked serious conversations, but the obsession is also a fun hobby for the pair. They're planning a road trip to meet up with other TwilightMOMS, an online group Joyce belongs to, for the Breaking Dawn release. But while they wait, they swap predictions for the Breaking Dawn and watch the movie trailer for Twilight, due in theaters in December.

"We're still not convinced that [actor Robert Pattinson] is cute enough to be Edward," Joyce Swiokla laughs.