Sometimes, being culturally literate isn’t really that enjoyable. I know I said I’d swear off Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight Saga” after reading and critiquing the first book…but, considering that there’s a movie version of “New Moon” coming out next month…I thought I should probably read it for myself so I could discuss it intelligently. That, and the trailer actually looked sort of interesting.
Bella Swan, the Everygirl protagonist of “Twilight” is enjoying a blissful relationship with her vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen…at least, until she accidentally suffers a paper cut in the presence of Edward and his family. Fearing that he will eventually give in to his blood-thirst and harm Bella, Edward breaks up with her and leaves the small town of Forks, Washington.
After a very long period of post-breakup trauma, Bella begins to once again emerge from her shell. She starts spending time with Jacob Black, a young Native American on the nearby La Push reservation. Their relationship begins innocently enough, but eventually begin to deepen into something…more. (Love triangle, anyone?) Bella also learns that when she is engaged in reckless behavior, she experiences hallucinations of Edward. She promptly takes up motorcycle riding and cliff diving in an attempt to catch brief glimpses of her lost love. After a particularly dangerous stunt, Jacob rescues her and vows to keep anyone from hurting her ever again. (Just in case anyone’s planning on watching the movie or reading the book, I won’t give away any more than this.)
Let’s start with the positives. “New Moon” is a better book than “Twilight” in numerous ways. Chief among these is the fact that Edward is absent for much of the book. His relationship with Bella always seemed cheap and ridiculous…there’s never any explanation given for why he fell in love with her in the first place, or why Bella is so obsessed with him. Their “love story” feels sappy and unrealistic.
(For the record, her behavior after Edward leaves her is NOT normal. I personally think Bella would benefit from a good, long counseling session.)
Jacob Black is the best character in the series thus far. He and Bella enjoy a caring, tender friendship with only a hint of romance. He treats her with respect, acts with a maturity beyond his years, and shows compassion to her during difficult situations. Their relationship is not characterized by the wild, unchecked passion that exists between Bella and Edward. Rather, it is one built on shared interests, trust, and genuine mutual admiration. This, in my opinion, is the way love should be pursued.
Meyer constantly implies that love is an uncontrollable feeling, a rush of breathless desire that blots out all rational thought. Unfortunately, Bella’s relationship with Edward is an unrealistic fantasy with no basis in reality. Not only does Edward frequently manipulate her emotions, but he also encourages her to disregard her parents’ boundaries and break the rules.
This is a huge problem in “New Moon.” As in many teen novels, parental figures are portrayed as bumbling idiots with no concept of “true love.” Bella frequently disrespects her father in her pursuit of Edward, even going so far as to leave home and fly to Italy without telling him. (She lies to him to cover it up). Authority is unilaterally portrayed as stale, boring, and powerless to stand in the way of destiny.
Still more troubling is Bella’s obsession with becoming a vampire herself. She constantly pesters Edward to bite her so that they can spend eternity together, casually disregarding the eternal consequences. I think the following quote says it all:
“He really did want me the way I wanted him – forever. It was only fear for my soul, for the human things he didn’t want to take from me, that made him so desperate to leave me mortal. Compared to the fear that he didn’t want me, this hurdle – my soul – seemed almost insignificant.”
And a bit further on, Bella tells Edward, “If you stay, I don’t need heaven.”
Last time I checked, there was a verse in the Bible that said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?” Maybe we should paraphrase this a bit. “What does it profit a girl if she gains Edward Cullen yet forfeits her soul?”
The usual objectionable content in “New Moon,” is practically nonexistent. There are a few swearwords and some mild violence, but nothing else worth mentioning. It’s the false image of love that’s the real problem, not the content itself.
Should you read it? From a purely entertainment-oriented standpoint, it’s a decent read. It’s certainly not something that should be read again and again, but neither is it especially terrible. I suspect, though, that most readers will probably be better off investing their time elsewhere.
Relatively entertaining, but devoid of literary worth.