I can honestly say that I was hesitant to read this book because of all the publicity and hype it have received. I was afraid that they hype was just that--hype--and the book wouldn't live up to my expectations. I started reading around 11:30 p.m. and the next thing I knew it was 6:00 a.m.; I had finished the book. I just couldn't put it down because I got drawn into the story.
Like many readers, I was, at first, a little put off by Bella stating how beautiful Edward was over and over again. (I think after the 3rd time readers probably got the idea that the man is perfection in physical beauty.) However, the characters were so well sketched and their flaws so real that I couldn't help being intrigued by them. And yes, even Edward, who is perfect to Bella, has some "character" flaws, which is what I think makes him a realistic and believable character. The human qualities of emotions and desires that Meyer has given Edward and his family make them work well as characters. The only character that I found slightly annoying was Renee, Bella's mother, who really does play a very minor role in the book.
For a teenage paranormal romance, I also think the plot works well and does a good job of conveying many of the primary anxieties of high school and teenage relationships/romances without being overly angst-ridden. Meyer does an especially good job of sketching out what it feels like, from the character's perspective, of being an outsider in a small town. I think she does a good job of this from both Bella and the Cullen's perspectives.