Bite Me: Midnight at the Breaking Dawn release party

By Wynter Holden

It's minutes before midnight on Friday night and I'm packed so tightly against a skinny brunette in a hip-hugging black dress that I can practically feel the outline of her thong against my thigh. The room pulses with energy. The evening's long-awaited final act begins exactly as the clock chimes 12. The crowd erupts in a climax of a scream, and I'm caught in a torrent of sweaty young bodies elbowing towards the stage at the back of the room.

I'm standing in the Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, in a sea of mainly young teenage girls hungry for Stephenie Meyer’s new young adult vampire romance Breaking Dawn; the fourth installment of the popular Twilight series. (Of course, I haven't actually read the books. Luckily, I managed to drag along my good friend "Magic," a 33-year-old divorcee whose niece got him hooked on the series.)

Teens are lining up to make theme T-shirts and get red sequined "love bites" pasted on their necks. There's even a blood drive on site (kudos to Changing Hands for thinking of that clever and conscientious book tie-in) with 17 more people in line waiting to get pricked.

Click through photographer Deanna Dent's slideshow from the event.

Everyone looks pretty normal in their jeans and Twilight T-shirts, save the few more creative fans scattered throughout. One's a tiny blonde wearing red contacts and a long, hooded grey robe. Think cross between Kirsten Dunst in Interview with the Vampire and one of the Children of the Corn. Magic explains that the red eyes mean a vampire is hungry. And not just any vampire. Vegetarian vampires like Edward, who only drink non-human blood, have black irises. Only those who feast on humans get red-tinged rims.

Click through photographer Deanna Dent's slideshow from the event.

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The three-hour-long bash includes some pop quizzes for book-related prizes, a scavenger hunt, a fashion show (which I never saw), a costume contest and performances by two semi-decent local rock bands. A girl with long dark curly hair and a "Team Edward" T-shirt tells me why she prefers Edward the vampire over Jacob the werewolf. "Because he’s hot," she tells me. "He's gorgeous. I love the way his skin glows in the sunlight." It all comes off very Legally Blonde, but hell, they’re teenagers.

Even the MILFs and frumpy soccer moms in the store think Bella's blood-sucking boyfriend is a hottie. "He's sexy and wonderful and gorgeous," a fortysomething local named Denise Johnson says. "It's very passionate, yet very chaste in a Victorian way, which makes it extremely erotic." Woah. These characters are serious jailbait. Yes, but as Johnson points out, the vampire is technically a century old even though his body looks young and supple. Isn't that every woman's fantasy? I can't argue.

By the end of the night, I'm starting to convert. Or maybe break down. As I'm walking to my car at 12:20 a.m., I spot a van full of kids with flashlights and open books. To my left, there's a woman my age in a silver Toyota -- motor running, air-conditioning on full blast -- furiously scanning the first few pages. Magic offers to run in and buy me the first Twilight book.

Bite me. I’ll wait for the movie.

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