Thursday, April 5, 2007

New Moon

New Moon
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Release Date: September, 2006

Series: the Twilight series
Position in Series: Book 2 of 3 to date
Main Characters: Bella Swan, Edward Cullen, Jacob Black
Sequel Bait: Children of the Cullen family: Rosalie, Alice, Emmett, Jasper
Bad Guys: The Volturi, an ancient trio of vampires who rule the vampire world

New Moon picks up a few months after the ending of Twilight, the first book in the Twilight series. Human teen Bella Swan has fallen deeply in love with vampire Edward Cullen, who returns her feelings in full measure. Despite Edward’s overwhelming thirst for Bella’s blood – a thirst that transcends the normal desire for human blood that most vampires possess – the couple has spent every waking moment together, their friendship and love forming a bond that Bella believes nothing can ever break.

When a freak accident at her birthday party illuminates just how fragile the control Edward and his family have over their natural urges to do Bella harm, Bella is blindsided by Edward’s reaction. Claiming that he no longer wants to be with her, Edward leaves Forks, vowing to Bella that she’ll never see him or any of the Cullen family again, ostensibly to speed the healing of the shredded remains of her heart.

And shredded it is. For months, Bella walks around in a near catatonic state, unwilling to feel anything because her pain is so great and deep. When she discovers she can hear Edward speaking to her whenever she puts her life in danger, she sets out to take as many risks as possible just to keep him close. And when she enlists the help of Jacob Black, a young Quileute man living on the nearby reservation, to help her repair the motorcycle she’s purchased to aid her quest for danger, Bella finally begins to live again.

Through most of the book, the relationship between Bella and Jacob moves from friendship to something bordering on more. However, Jacob goes through some inexplicable change and no longer wants to spend time with Bella, once again sending her world into a tailspin. Determined to know why she has once again been abandoned by someone she’s come to care for deeply, Bella learns that Jacob’s fate is intricately entwined with Edward’s world.

When Bella takes one risk too many, Alice Cullen returns to Forks. And through a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, Bella learns that she may lose Edward forever if she can’t get to him in time.

I began and finished Twilight after New Moon had been released, so it was sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. Thank heavens! I was so enamored with Bella and Edward’s story, I couldn’t wait to dive right back into their world. While I thoroughly enjoyed New Moon, I found it not quite as compelling as Twilight.
The primary problem I had with NM was one I think any fan of Edward and Bella’s romance would take issue with: Edward is out of the picture for a good portion of the book. By page 73 he’d said his good-byes to Bella, and he didn’t return in true physical form until page 450. In the course of those 377 pages, we watch Bella develop a relationship with another boy. That’s a hard premise to swallow given the depth of the love we were led to believe she felt for Edward.

This is an even harder pill to swallow when you take into account the mastery author Meyer showed in conveying the amount of pain Bella felt upon Edward’s leaving her. I rarely cry when reading a book, but tears flowed freely as I read about the aftermath of Edward’s good-by. My heart broke right alongside of Bella’s. Her grief was palpable, and I hated Edward for doing what he did to her just as I despaired that he was leaving her forever.

Because of these emotions, I was never able to fully embrace the relationship between Jacob and Bella. Jacob wore his heart on his sleeve for her, leaving no doubt that he sought a romantic relationship. Yet I never believed that she would return his feelings, so I was never really engaged by their story. Nor did I doubt that if the time came for her to make a choice between Jacob and Edward exactly who it was Bella would pick. While Bella never treated Jacob like a doormat, she never kept it a secret that she loved and would always love Edward.

Part of my disinterest in this relationship rested on Jacob Black as a hero. Jake is the quintessential beta male. A great friend, nice guy type who would bend over backwards for Bella, he paled in comparison to the uber-perfection that was Edward. Even after Jacob experienced his transformation and gained a dark edge, he didn't hold the same appeal as Edward. To Jacob's defense, I don't imagine any hero could.

Too, I experienced a great deal of confusion over how Bella waffled all over the place in the way that she treated Jacob toward the end of the story. First she’s upset and confused that he won’t see her and is clearly hiding some pretty major stuff from her. (Sidebar to say that I figured out Jacob's situation fairly early on, so by the time Bella caught up, I was wondering what had taken her so long. I don't recall being spoiled for this development, and I'm not that clever, so the clues must have been pretty well spotlighted.) When she corners him and he yet again rebuffs her, Bella is furious and ready to write him off, which I can understand. Naturally, when he explains and apologizes, she’s forgiving and understanding. However, when Alice Cullen shows up in Forks to see how Bella is doing, Bella treats Jacob like an unwelcome intruder. Her loyalties are very clearly drawn, and there was never any genuine sense that making a choice was a difficult thing for Bella to do. For all of the build-up of Jacob and Bella's deep friendship, things are left decidedly unfriendly between them.

In the end, I was left feeling that Bella had somewhat used Jacob, which led mostly to feelings of pity for the boy. I never got over my urge to skip over all of the Jacob interactions just so I could find out what would happen with Edward. If I were to go back for a re-read, I’d be tempted to make the jump from page 73 to around 400 without feeling as if I’d missed anything of interest.

I can’t offer much on my other big issue with this story without giving key plot points away. Suffice it to say, some major story developments revolve around a Big Misunderstanding of the Romeo and Juliet variety, and I hate that kind of stuff. If Edward’s feelings for Bella were such that he’d be driven to take the actions he did, I don’t really understand how he could stay away from her so long. You’ll have to read the book to understand.

And following along with my took-me-out-of-the-story nitpick of the Cullen children attending high school for the umpteenth time, Bella’s chronic accident-proneness really stretched the limits of my suspension of disbelief. Between this book and the first, I've lost track of how many times she's journeyed to the hospital for stitches. If this were reality, I imagine the doctors in the emergency room would be reporting possible suspected child abuse to the authorities. Not to mention how Bella manages to explain away all of her various injuries to her father.

Where this story worked for me is in the expert way Meyer showed Bella’s pain over losing Edward. Throughout the story the hole Edward left in Bella’s heart was obvious. While she came out of her grief and began to live again, you were never in doubt that she would never fully recover from the pain she’d endured.

Reading over this review one would get the impression that I didn’t like this book. But despite the problems I’ve listed above, I really did enjoy the story overall. It kept me turning pages – again, primarily to see if and how Edward would re-enter the story – although I’m not sure that’s the best technique for capturing a reader’s attention. Too, given that Edward and Bella have suffered pretty much the worst experience two lovers can go through short of death, I’m not sure how much further their story can go in subsequent titles. However, Meyer clearly has a good plan. She’s deftly woven in a cliff-hanger at the end of NM that is so intriguing I can’t wait to read the next installment, Eclipse. Can’t ask for more than that.

Rating: Couldn’t Put It Down
Status of Series: Still going strong

No comments: