Upon Twilight's initial publication, the book generally received positive reviews, which acted as a catalyst to spread its popularity. Seattle Post-Intelligencer called the book a "hot new teen novel", and The Times praised the book for capturing "perfectly the teenage feeling of sexual tension and alienation." Larry Carroll for MTV Movies deemed Edward and Bella "an iconic love story for a whole generation." Amazon.com hailed the book as "[d]eeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful", while School Library Journal stated, "Realistic, subtle, succinct, and easy to follow, Twilight will have readers dying to sink their teeth into it". Booklist said, "this dark romance is gripping", and Norah Piehl of TeenReads wrote, "Twilight is a gripping blend of romance and horror".
Referring to the series' enduring popularity and fandom, USA Today said, "Move over, Harry Potter". In addition, Entertainment Weekly hailed Meyer as "the world's most popular vampire novelist since Anne Rice". The New York Times has described Twilight as a "literary phenomenon", and Matt Arado of Daily Herald noted that the Twilight books have become the "hottest publishing phenomenon since a certain bespectacled wizard cast his spell on the world." Lev Grossman of Time wrote that the books have a "pillowy quality distinctly reminiscent of Internet fan fiction", but still praised the series, comparing it to The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter:
People do not want to just read Meyer's books; they want to climb inside them and live there...There's no literary term for the quality Twilight and Harry Potter (and The Lord of the Rings) share, but you know it when you see it: their worlds have a freestanding internal integrity that makes you feel as if you should be able to buy real estate there.
Outlining the anticipated release of Breaking Dawn, The Sunday Times called Twilight, "no ordinary vampire series – it boils with desire that all goes painfully unconsummated – and Meyer turns out to be far from an ordinary author". The Times wrote, "The vampires that sank their fangs into Harry Potter were born in the low desert of Arizona. They arrived in a dream, were immediately translated to paper, spread through the adolescent population like a virus and transmogrified into a publishing phenomenon." The San Diego Union-Tribune described the books as a "classic tale of undying love, one that has fans gushing about a Harry Potter-with-fangs global phenomenon." The Guardian described Meyer as an "imaginative storyteller, a prolific author and a newly powerful figure in the publishing market."
The widespread appeal of the Twilight novels and the huge online fan community of the series are often noted, and the author and the series' popularity are often compared with J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter. Describing the fan following of the books, the Phoenix New Times wrote, "Meyer's fandom is reminiscent of Harry Potter mania." The Daily Telegraph agreed and described Twilight as the "spiritual successor to Harry Potter". Rebekah Bradford of The Post and Courier noted that that the series has a "huge crossover appeal much like the Harry Potter books before them." Meyer responds to such comparisons, saying, "It's terribly flattering to be compared to her, but there's never going to be another J. K. Rowling; that's a phenomenon that's not gonna happen again", however noting that "you can compare my fans to her fans more easily [than me to her]. I do think that we both have people who are just really really enthusiastic, and will come miles to see you and be involved, and everybody really cares about our characters." Crystal Mack of Daily Herald noted, "While teenage girls are the main audience, young boys and adults of both genders have also been swept up in the phenomenon." According to the Daily Telegraph, "Stephenie Meyer, in particular, has achieved incredible success across all the English-speaking nations and Europe and many will say that her Twilight series has filled the hole left by Harry Potter."
A social networking community for Twilight fans has over 350,000 members at the series' official site, and the series has spawned hundreds of fansites. The Twilight series' popularity and enthusiastic fan following have grabbed media attention and been dubbed "The Twilight Phenomenon". In addition, Gina McIntyre of the Los Angeles Times has called Twilight "a full-blown pop culture phenomenon". Fans of Meyer are noted to "dress up like her characters. They write their own stories about them and post their tales on the Internet. When she appears at a bookstore, 3,000 people go to meet her. There are Twilight-themed rock bands." The Irish Times noted, "The Twilight books...have generated a movement that strains definitions of the word 'cult'."
Economically, the town of Forks, Washington, the setting for the Twilight series, has improved due to tourism from fans of the books. Forks is visited by an average of 8,000 tourists per month, and has been described as a "mecca for Twilighters". Many of the restaurants have Twilight-themed menus and the shops sell Twilight-related items. The town also hosts Twilight tours, which visit places such as La Push's First Beach, the hospital where Carlisle Cullen supposedly works, and a two-story house meant to portray the Swan residence. In response to plans for the aging Forks High School to be renovated, Twilight fans have teamed up with Infinite Jewelry Co. and the West Olympic Peninsula Betterment Association to collect donations in an attempt to save the brick appearance or the building altogether. In addition, an annual "Stephenie Meyer Day" is celebrated in Forks on September 13, the birthday of character Bella Swan.
According to Megan Tingley, editor at Little, Brown and Company, "Stephenie's fans are rabid, Stephenie has tapped into something very deep in her readers, and they respond on an emotional level."
In an interview with USA Today, US president Barack Obama said that he and his ten-year-old daughter, Malia, often bond over the Twilight books, while Kelly Clarkson has described herself as a "Twilight nerd" and even wrote a song based on New Moon. Emily Osment described Twilight as one of her "all-time-favorite books" and praised Stephenie Meyer, saying, "From the first chapter, Meyer grabbed my attention and kept me enthralled throughout the entire book. The characters contrast so greatly, I found myself wondering how she pieced them so seamlessly."
As well, Emma Watson has described herself as a Twilight fan and said, "I love those books ... I literally felt depressed when I finished reading them".