Before you judge me, I read Twilight at its peak and I was Team Edward. I am *compelled* to read this new book in the Twilight saga. Sorry, I promise to do better next time.
Stephenie Meyer wrote Twilight in 2005, a YA novel and series which hit never seen before levels of popularity. The movie released in 2008 and altered the whole vampire werewolf universe, encouraging several other ripoffs and a fandom that still is kicking and alive.
12 years after Breaking Dawn, the final book in the series, comes Midnight Sun, a ‘companion novel’ to the Twilight series. It is a retelling of the original story from Edward’s perspective. I went in with super low expectations, and guys, I was right. The book is exactly what Twilight has been- the high school drama (okay drama is a stretch), the constant attempts to make pale people look ‘gorgeous’ or to use a word from the novel ‘dazzling,’ and rewriting the original Twilight novel in a more prose-like manner.
Do you remember the episode in F.R.I.E.N.D.S where Joey uses a thesaurus on every single word in a letter? Midnight Sun hits very close to that letter and feeling.
I picked up Midnight Sun because it played on my nostalgia. I am not a Twihard fan, one that still fights in Teams and nor do I actively love or hate the series. It purely tugged at my reader mind and made me want to relive some happy memories. I did like Twilight when I first read it. I was a teenage girl, probably the audience Meyer had written the book for. As time went by, the movies and the books accumulated and made me realize it was a fond memory, nothing else. One that I and many others (including Robert Pattinson) regret. But I went into this book, thinking if nothing else, it could be a happy weekend. Boy, oh, boy.
Meyer has tried her best to encourage the writer within her to experiment. One such poetic and prose-like passage, is ‘Her scent hit me like a wrecking ball, like a battering ram. There was no image violent enough to encapsulate the force of what happened to me in that moment.’
The reason Twilight did so well, wasn’t because of the writing or the author. It did so because it managed to build a relatable character for teenage girls across the world and put them in a dangerous, risky, fantasy world where her angst and her ordinary-ness is her strength. Bella may be basic but it was her perspective, her general confusion, and apparent ignorance that felt real. Through her eyes, Edward seems so mysterious, so layered, so charming, and extremely assured.
When you read Edward’s narrative, you think okay he’s a vampire who has lived through so many interesting times and lives. Of course he will have something more to contribute than a 17 year teenage girl. Meyer repeatedly tells us he does. But it never really comes. The book begins with Edward’s dripping and constant contempt for his life, ‘purgatory’ he calls it, for his classmates, and everybody he encounters. He calls his state ‘cursed.’ He bickers with Rosalie, whose only mortal sin is to feel upset that Edward is a whining arrogant jerk. He shares telepathy and inner radio channels with Alice, easily the most annoying vampire even in this novel. We know the school feels intimidated by Edward and his siblings. Edward uses long, tedious words to convey those scenes.
Edward feels shame, shock, and confusion when he first interacts with Bella. He starts to mentally torture himself (and us) about his urgent desire to eat Bella. ‘Thirst burned through my throat like fire. My mouth was baked and desiccated. The fresh flow of venom did nothing to dispel that sensation. My stomach twisted with the hunger that was an echo of the thirst. My muscles coiled to spring.’ This is how we learn how special Bella and her blood is. The effect she has on Edward is staggering. Readers get dragged and bored for 600 pages while Edward drones about the spiral of shame, desire, hunger, weakness, and danger that runs through him. He feels that he will destroy her and yet he goes about creating lame scenarios, stalking her, and thinking he is dangerous to her while driving her everywhere. Twilight felt intriguing because Bella was ordinary, clueless, and genuinely enthralled by Edward without any fancy words to suggest it. Midnight Sun is more about telling you what it is than being anything substantial.
For a vampire who claims to be around forever, Edward is totally disconnected from reality. He either has never met a real girl in his life or Meyer felt that she had to make it appear that Bella is the only normal human being in the world. Consider this passage- ‘I watched her as she lifted her face to the light rain with her eyes closed, a slight smile on her lips. What was she thinking? Something about this action seemed off, and I quickly realized why the posture looked unfamiliar to me. Normal human girls wouldn’t raise their faces to the drizzle that way; normal human girls usually wore makeup, even here in this wet place. Bella never wore makeup, nor should she. The cosmetics industry made billions of dollars a year from women who were trying to attain skin like hers.’ Sigh. I felt feminism take back several steps reading this passage. Edward knows that the cosmetics industry made billions of dollars but he apparently doesn’t know about waterproof makeup? Or is every girl around made of something so fragile that they will crumble into pieces if they ‘raise their faces to the drizzle.’
Meyer tries to inject some newness by expanding on the Cullens and giving us little glimpses into their lives. Their past, their relationships, and their stories provide some relief from the boring and super stilted courtship of Edward and Bella. Edward is only focused on her fragility, his anger that any human being wants to hurt her (because that’s what drives everybody else), and her bad luck. Bella’s ‘clumsiness’ is a way of making her appear endearing but to Edward, it signals that she is a ‘magnet for danger.’ ‘Like a magnet, she drew all things dangerous toward herself.’
Bella may not be the sharpest mind in Forks but she is ‘puzzling’ enough to keep Edward intrigued and occupied. However, trite that may be. But what isn’t trite is the Twilight fandom. More than a million copies of Midnight Sun have already been sold and fans have approved it because it fulfills their desire for more Edward-Bella drama and stories. For those who are on the lookout for a light, YA read, this isn’t it. But if you are Twi-nner, Twihard fan then definitely go for it.