New Moon (Book)
Reviewed by Morgan Elektra
Written by Stephenie Meyer
Published by Little, Brown Young Readers
**WARNING - This review will contain spoilers. If you don’t want to know specific details of the Twilight saga, you can close your eyes and think of England. **
So, you’re a new author whose first novel about a young woman who meets and falls in love with a vampire has become a huge hit. Your male lead is, in the mind of thousands of young (and some not so young) women, a romantic hero the likes of Shakespeare’s Romeo or Austen’s Mr. Darcy. What do you do for your follow up?
Well, if you’re Stephenie Meyer, you begin your second novel about the young couple with your heroine getting a paper cut in a room full of vampires, falling into a table full of crystal plates, slicing her arm open, and coming within an inch of painful death at the teeth of her beloved’s adopted brother. Then, to make things more interesting, you send away your tortured hero for almost the entire duration of the book.
The paper cut scene, which takes place at the Cullen’s house while they’re celebrating Bella’s 18th birthday, is great. It’s tense, emotional, and reminds the reader that there is more to Bella and Edward’s story than just romance. She risks her life every day she’s with him, though not from Edward. He had to confront his lust for her blood in the climax of Twilight (review), when she was bitten by another vampire and Edward had to suck out the venom to keep her from becoming one of them.
As you see, the precedent has been set for Edward trying to protect Bella at any cost. So Edward’s decision to take his entire family and leave Forks comes as no surprise to anyone but Bella. But we’re only 84 pages into a 500 + page book. Our romantic hero is gone. What now?
Here’s the downside. Bella is heartbroken at the loss of her true love, which is understandable. And Meyer conveys that pain well; too well at times. Her descriptions of Bella’s feelings were so vivid they called to mind some of my more painful memories. And there are a lot those descriptions, as Bella is torn up for the majority of the story; after awhile it became somewhat emotionally exhausting. Thankfully, for both Bella and myself, she attempts to distract herself from the depression in a number of ways.
She finds that when she puts herself in danger, she can hear Edward’s voice, talking to her – often yelling at her to quit doing something stupid. While I understand that Meyer used the device both to convey an important point at the end of the story, and to keep Edward close in our minds, it’s still fairly wince-inducing. Thankfully, the instances are few and far between. Bella purchases a pair of motorcycles and persuades her friend Jacob Black to help her fix them up and teach her to ride, which results in the real distraction from the constant pain (both hers and ours) of Edward’s absence – Jacob’s presence. He’s a warm, fun and charming character who’s a joy to spend time with.
Jacob was introduced briefly in Twilight, a young boy from the nearby Quileute reservation who tells Bella of the tribe’s legends of their descent from werewolves, and about the wolves’ mortal enemy, the vampire. It’s his stories that lead Bella to initially realize what Edward truly is. These legends come into play again and again throughout the series, to the chagrin and amusement of various characters.
The time the two spend fixing the bikes, riding them and searching for the meadow where Edward and Bella spent the day in the first book (once Bella’s injuries become too numerous for her father to chalk up to her simple clumsiness) is generally amusing and an easy read. Although it feels as if there’s too much of this between Edward’s departure and the next big development – which occurs when a dejected Bella, distressed over Jacob’s sudden withdrawal from their friendship, manages to find the meadow and is confronted by Laurent (one of the vampire coven from Twilight, who’s coven leader James hunted Bella in the book’s dénouement) and his revelation that James’ mate Victoria is hellbent on revenging her lover’s murder by killing Bella. Laurent kindly offers to spare Bella the torture by eating her himself, when a pack of gigantic wolves chases him away.
Still, it takes a late night visit from a distraught Jacob, who begs Bella to remember ALL the legends he told her, for her to catch up with what the reader most likely already know: Jacob is a werewolf. Much like she did when she realizes what Edward was, Bella accepts the truth of the matter fairly quickly and her friendship with Jacob returns to almost normal. Now that the big secret is out Bella doesn’t have much to do. She struggles still with her pain and worries about Jacob as he and his pack hunt Victoria (werewolves and vampires are mortal enemies, after all), and hangs around the Quileute reservation. This portion of the book is all somewhat tiresome, without even the benefit of having Jacob around to lighten the mood, as he’s mostly out running patrols.
Things pick up again once Bella, bored and sad, decides to go cliff diving in an attempt to hear Edward’s voice again. She nearly drowns, but is rescued by Jacob. It’s at this point that Alice, Edward’s psychic sister, re-enters the story. She saw Bella jump and thought she killed herself; her vision is incomplete due to the fact that she can’t “see” werewolves and therefore didn’t see the rescue. Edward, believing Bella dead, heads to Italy to ask the Volturi (some very old vampires who are somewhat of the disciplinarians of the undead world) to kill him. Bella and Alice have to rush to Italy to stop him. Much like Twilight., I felt the writing switched gears rather abruptly and raced towards the end. Once again it was fairly disconcerting, though the end was interesting. Meyer’s confrontations are almost always more emotional and verbal than physical, and that’s the case again in New Moon as we meet the Voluturi, the grasping Aro and vindictive Caius. And of course, Bella and Edward win the day and return home to Forks in each other’s arms, though some things have changed.
For one, Alice promised the Volturi she would change Bella, much to Edward’s displeasure. He’s still against her being anything but human, which leads to Bella calling for his family to vote whether she should remain human or not. Also, Jacob and Bella’s relationship is now strained by Edward’s return and the hatred between the two species. Meyer references Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet several times throughout the story, and it’s an apt comparison as far as emotions go. Although it’s more as if this particular Juliet isn’t a Capulet herself, but best friends with one. Much like that story, this one doesn’t end all that happily either, at least in this chapter. Bella has Edward back, but loses Jacob.
So, here is where I am torn. If I were to score this novel simply on how entertaining it was, it would get fairly high marks. The characters are wonderful. They’re really Meyer’s greatest strength. The story is interesting, full of emotion and laughter and pain. And while I was reading it, I enjoyed the hell out of it. But once I’ve put it down, and have distance from the satisfaction of the moment, I have to admit it is a deeply flawed book. The story, while interesting and engaging, is much too long and the big plot points feel rushed. The writing is solid, but overly descriptive and full of unnecessary recaps of the last book. It’s like an 11 course meal. While you’re eating it, you’re happy. All the food tastes good. But afterwards, your stomach hurts and, if you were honest, the meal would have been perfect if you cut out five or six of those courses.
Overall, if you liked the first book, you’re going to like this follow up. You get to know our old characters better, and you get some great new characters like Jacob, Embry and Quil and of course you get more Bella and Edward. But it should have been edited down significantly. With judicious editing, it could be a solid first part to a more encompassing story. It only works in the larger picture of the Twilight saga, not really on its own. This isn’t a game changer. If you aren’t a fan, this one will not sell it for you, though you may enjoy it on a surface level. And if you already ARE a fan, then this one isn’t going to sour you on it. After the strength of the first book though, I was definitely left wanting something more.
2 1/2 out of 5
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