Book Review: “New Moon” by Stephenie Meyer

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In Twilight, a small-town Washington police chief’s daughter found true love with a teenage vampire, just in time for a bloodsucking fiend to chase her to a deadly confrontation in Phoenix. Now The Twilight Saga continues with a tale of post-breakup depression, extreme sports, and a pack of teen werewolves in the throes of lycanthro-puberty.

When the Cullens – including her beloved Edward – suddenly leave the town of Forks, Bella Swan is left with a gaping hole in her heart. If you read the first book or saw the movie, you might have gotten a vague idea that being separated from Edward might be tough on her. But for Bella, breaking up is really hard to do. She goes through half of her senior year at Forks High like a zombie, speaking only in answer to a direct question, and growing increasingly distant from her school friends and her worried father.

Her outlook begins to brighten when Bella renews her friendship with Jacob Black, a 16-year-old do-it-yourself auto mechanic at the Quileute Reservation outside of town. Jacob carries a torch for Bella, and as she takes more and more comfort from his friendship she is increasingly tempted to make his dreams come true. It wouldn’t entirely remove the pain of missing Edward; but since it seems Edward doesn’t want her anymore, why shouldn’t Jacob have her instead? Just when Bella has almost decided to act on this reasoning, things change. And the first thing that changes, in a big, angry, hairy way, is Jacob.

In the Quileute tribe, werewolves are a defense against vampires. The latest outbreak of lycanthropy seems to have been triggered by the Cullens, though they don’t hunt people and – let’s face it – they’re gone. But it couldn’t have come at a better time, since a couple vampires with less scruple about drinking human blood have moved into the area. And especially since one of those werewolves is Victoria, mate of the late James, whose idea of revenge is to sink her teeth into Bella’s throat.

The only thing stopping Bella from being next on the menu is the pack of which Jacob is the newest member. Unfortunately, the whole werewolf thing complicates their deepening relationship, leaving Bella with only one other solace from the torment of missing Edward. Yup. Those extreme sports. Stuff that anyone as clumsy as Bella would be crazy to try – and all but suicidal to try alone. Why would she do stuff like that to herself? Here’s why: because whenever she is about to do something reckless and stupid, she hears Edward’s voice in her head, begging her to stop. It’s the next best thing to having him there in person.

Which explains, roughly, why she happens to throw herself off a sea cliff during a raging storm. This extraordinarily foolish act nearly kills her. Worse, by a chain of hard-to-explain accidents, it leads Edward to decide to kill himself. And this is why, quite suddenly, Bella finds herself moving again in the world of vampires, risking her budding relationship with Jacob, and defying all-but-certain death to save her true love, whether he loves her back or not.

What is clear to me after reading this book is that The Twilight Saga is basically a love triangle. Bella is caught between two monsters, both of whom she loves (though not equally), and neither of whom can stand the other. She is caught up in a world of weirdness and terror where anything that has ever been imagined might exist; and if it does exist, she seems bound to meet it. In her own dogged, passionate way, she unintentionally makes herself the pivotal figure in two remarkably detailed, well-developed fantasy worlds, while continuing to stir up her share of trouble in the everyday world.

Bella’s observations of Jacob and Edward continually prompt readers to imagine two very different flavors of physically perfect, spiritually flawed romantic leading men. Meanwhile, salivating readers – especially teen girls – will scarcely notice that most of the suspense and action are concentrated in a few chapters, while the majority of the book takes place inside Bella’s complex and tortured mind. This is perhaps the cleverest thing Stephenie Meyer has achieved in writing this long, inwardly focused, mostly slow-paced, yet compulsively page-turning book. Once you start it, you will finish it; and once you finish it, you will want to start the next book in the series, Eclipse.