Book Review: Stephanie Meyer, “New Moon” (2006)

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, chances are you’ve heard about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight book series.  The four novels tell the story of seventeen year old human, Bella Swan, and her relationship with a 107 year old vampire, Edward Cullen.

I read the Twilight books in the span of about five days last summer, after a friend at work recommended them to me.  While I found the first book in the series, Twilight to be decent enough, I was incredibly disappointed by the book’s follow-up New Moon.

New Moon takes place a few months after Twilight ends.  Edward and Bella have happily continued their relationship, despite the ongoing arguments they have about Bella’s mortality.  Bella tries to unsuccessfully convince Edward to turn her into a vampire throughout the beginning of the book, especially once she realizes that she’s only getting older with each year, while Edward continues to look and live on as a seventeen year old (which was how old he was when turned into a vampire).

Edward, however, sees turning Bella as a moral dilemma- he believes that vampires have no soul, and refuses to “change” Bella, despite her protests, and even the approval of his other family members.  This creates a minor strain on their otherwise happy relationship; for at the end of the day, Bella and Edward are still human and vampire.  This becomes blindingly obvious at Bella’s 18th birthday party, held at the Cullen household (Edward’s entire “family” is made up of six other vampires whom, together, form a coven, though to humans they explain their cohabitation as being adopted siblings to their parents,Esme and Carlisle Cullen), when Bella’s blood becomes too much of an temptation for Edward’s “brother” Jasper.

Suddenly, Edward becomes distant, and after a heartbreaking talk with Bella in the woods by her home (“It will be as if I never existed”), Edward and his family move away, leaving Bella devastated and alone.  Bella finds herself unable to function without Edward, whom she believes is her soul mate, and falls into a deep depression.  The only person who is able to lift her from her state of despair is family friend and Quileute tribe teenager, Jacob Black, whom Bella develops a close friendship with in Edward’s absence.

A series of misunderstandings led Edward to believe that Bella has committed suicide, and so, in turn, he decides to head to Italy to meet with the vampire counsel, the Volturi, in hopes that they will kill him, too. Edward’s sister Alice, rushes back to Forks to tell Bella of Edward’s impending doom, and together, Bella and Alice rush to Italy to save Edward before it’s too late.

On the surface, the plot of New Moon looks meatier and more thrilling than the plot in Twilight was.  There’s plenty of conflict- from Edward’s departure (which he does, because he believes that Bella’s life would be “easier” without him in it), Jacob and Bella’s relationship, and of course, the race to Italy- all keep the reader on the edge of their seat.  Mostly.

Again, it’s the characters that I’ve found most frustrating about Meyer’s series.  As I mentioned in my review for Twilight, the character of Bella is the most annoying character I’ve ever encountered.  New Moon intensifies my dislike for her.  The beginning of the book finds Bella as whiny and irritating as ever- she spends most of the time analyzing Edward’s attention towards her and deeming herself inadequate in comparison to him.  I wouldn’t mind this once or twice, but Bella seems to spend all of her time swooning over Edward, and then thinking that she doesn’t deserve someone as “perfect” as he is.

When Edward leaves, Bella hits her lowest point, and, at least in my opinion, becomes incredibly repulsive.  I was sympathetic to Bella’s feelings at first; she goes into a shock, and then falls into depression when she realizes Edward is really gone.  Though Edward and Bella’s love is fairly superficial (we’re told over and over in the books that they’re “soul mates”, but Meyer never gives any real reasons as to why they are even attracted to one another- other than Bella finds Edward comparable to a demi-god, and Edward is attracted to the scent of Bella’s blood and intrigued by the fact that he can’t hear her thoughts), it’s understandable that she’s young and he’s her first love, so losing him is appropriately devastating to her.  I even remember getting teary as Meyer chose to express the loss that Bella feels without Edward for several chapters by simply writing the months on the top of the pages and leaving the rest of the chapters blank- signifying how empty Bella’s life is without Edward.

However, several months pass, and Bella is still devastated.  And to an incredibly unhealthy degree.  She stops working hard at school, stops talking to friends, stops existing really, because she has no Edward.  This could be, of course, due to the fact that when Edward was around she based her entire life around him, and now that he’s gone, she has nothing.  Meyer, however, does not point this out as a bad thing and instead makes it seem completely natural that a teenage girl would be unhealthily obsessed with her boyfriend and then suicidal when they breakup.  Right, like young girls really need that idea being reinforced.

Then, making things even worse, Bella is only happy again when she has another romantic interest in her life- Jacob Black.  I see that Meyer was trying to create competition for Edward in bringing in Jacob’s character, but instead, it just makes Bella’s character (if at all possible) even weaker; showing us that her happiness and joy in life is only dependent on the attention of a man.

I’m by no means a feminist, but it still disgusts me to see the book’s main antagonist being portrayed so weakly, and even worse, by a female writer!  I wonder if Meyer would want her own daughters to grow up and be like Bella- weak, annoying, whiny, brainless and constantly dependant on male affections.

The remaining characters aren’t as offensive to me, though they aren’t much better.  Edward was the main draw of the first book, but is absent for nearly 400 pages of this novel, taking away the series’ main selling point.   However, when Edward is around, I found him to be tortured, sullen, self-righteous, and basically unlikeable- taking away most of the charm he had in the first book.  As I mentioned above, Edward leaves because he thinks Bella will be “better off” without him, but the choice is actually a thoughtless and selfish one- even once he realizes that Bella is miserable without him, he still chooses to stay away even though the decision tortures both of them immensely. Similarly, Edward’s constant refusal to “change” Bella at the beginning of the book also becomes increasingly selfish; though Bella begs and bargains with him, he refuses to allow anyone in the family change her- despite the fact that she will eventually, as a human, die- ending their lives together.

Jacob’s character was scarcely mentioned in the first book, but he’s one of the main characters of this story.  I don’t really care for his character, either. He’s supposed to create a sort of tension for Bella and her love for Edward, but really does no such thing; he’s a nice, funny guy, but Bella is never drawn to him as she was to Edward, and neither was I while reading the book.  He does show a bit more personality that Edward did in Twilight, and is much more likeable to read about than Edward is in this book, but as a whole, Jacob is also pretty one-dimensional, and pretty much only serves as Bella’s replacement for Edward.

Bella even treats Jacob as such (which is another point against her character, and against Meyer, who writes this into the plot as though there’s entirely nothing wrong with discarding someone when you no longer “need” them); as soon as she realizes that Edward still loves her and left to protect her, she completely forgives him and all is forgotten, and so is poor Jacob.

This is pretty sad, considering how Jacob and Bella do develop a seemingly much more realistic relationship than Bella and Edward ever did.   At least, in New Moon, Meyer does do a good job of developing things between Jacob and Bella; the two of them lean on each other through hard times, cheer each other up, and the chemistry between them in the story is understandable.  I can see what draws Bella to Jacob- he’s kind and funny, and genuinely cares about her.  Likewise, the only times I can stomach Bella’s character is when she’s in the presence of Jacob.  Bella actually lightens up and makes a few jokes herself, and enjoys herself around Jacob.  Also, the intense adulation that Bella has for Edward is absent in her relationship with Jacob- making for a healthier situation all around.

But this series is about Bella and Edward, not Jacob and Bella, so Jacob and his plot is merely used as a place holder until Edward comes back.

Obviously, those are my main complaints about the book, but I had a few minor nitpicks as well.  Meyer has still not improved as a writer, but, fortunately, Edward is absent so we don’t have to read the same adjectives to describe his “marble-like” skin and “perfect” lips over and over again.  As I said, the plot is at least better  this time around; however, the beginning of the book is incredibly slow-paced and plods along for the first 300 pages or so.

New Moon isn’t the worst book in the Twilight series (no, I will save that distinction for the final book, Breaking Dawn), but it’s definitely a poor entry.  Bella’s character becomes downright disgusting, Edward loses his charm and disappears right along with it, and Meyer seems to encourage some of the ridiculous actions and concepts in this book, forgetting that her target audience is mostly young teenage girls, whom I would never want to be influenced by the character of Bella Swan, or Stephenie Meyer, for that matter.

I honestly recommend someone reading the Twilight series to skip this book altogether. I’ve left out a few of the plot details as not to spoil the entire story, so just check out a full synopsis on Wikipedia to get filled in; basically, what I’m saying here, is don’t waste your time reading 563 pages of this dismal follow-up novel.

Rating: 2_stars.svg

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