Beware! There will be spoilers for this book and the original Twilight Saga aplenty here!
Look, I don’t actually hate the Twilight books. I think I need to make that clear upfront because I suspect that I am not going to have a lot positive to say about Stephanie Meyer’s latest book Midnight Sun, a retelling of Twilight from the point of view of Edward Cullen.
The original four books were fine. The story arc actually made a lot of sense once the reader reached the end of the story. Bella Swann was born to be a vampire. Literally. That’s why she was so klutzy as a human, she’d been living as the wrong species for seventeen years. She was somehow already imbued with the supernatural spooky woo magic and nobody really realised until she got to Forks. A place where presumably there was enough residual werewolf/vampire magic sloshing around to ensure that Bella – hitherto nondescript and ignored by the boys at her Arizona school – was even a desirable siren to the muggles.
And she was of course irresistible to Edward the brooding vampire. They fall into a love that is deep and wide and heavy and all-consuming and stuff and a whole bunch of dangerous hi-jinks ensue before the happy couple (and their magical offspring) get their happy ending and go skipping off into the sunrise.
Which is all well and good. But we did that already. Why the need for the new book? Why, specifically did I feel the need to spend £10.99 on a book where at least 50% of the text is exactly the same as a book I’ve already purchased? There should have been some kind of discount for people who bought the original book, surely? I’ve already paid for this dialogue!
And, while we’re questioning the wisdom of me buying this book in the first place, why am I reviewing it here on a website that is usually focused on fiction which a good deal more sexy, spanky and salacious than this high-school-based apparently doomed romance? I don’t really have a good answer to that. I feel that Twilight does fit in quite happily amongst my usual sort of romantic fare. The tropes are the same, there’s a flawed hero and a submissive-yet-feisty heroine, obstacles to be overcome and (eventually) a happy ever after that will literally go on for ever in this case. There are lines like “She gasped in reaction, her lips parting against mine, the fever of her breath burning my skin”. And, of course, Twilight famously inspired the Fifty Shades of Grey books.
The story begins with Bella’s first day at her new school. Edward – in whose brain the reader will now live for the next 671 pages – is all too aware of the arrival of the new girl. This is because he is besieged with the thoughts of all the other students and they all seem to be thinking “There’s a new girl starting today, wonder what she’s like?”
The way in which the innermost thoughts of the local human population are depicted is my first real problem with this book. All the thoughts that Edward eavesdrops on seem remarkably tidy. People apparently think in full sentences as though they’re composing their daily journal.
I really don’t think people think that way. I certainly don’t. I have no idea how I would begin to write down the jumbled, cacophonous noise that makes up my continual inner monologue; the snippets of songs, imaginary conversations, berating inner critical voice and the Tourettes-like mental blurtings running through my head – usually all at the same time.
You can see why Meyers doesn’t try to render this sort of stream of consciousness into words in Midnight Sun. It would turn the whole thing into some kind of sub-Joycean gobbledegook. And, really, everybody else’s thoughts are only there as a plot device. Edward’s head-hopping is one of the many creepy ways that he can keep a metaphorical eye on Bella.
I can accept that the vampire characters have tidier more organised thoughts than the rest of us. They know that they’re being listened to, for one thing. Also, vampires are Weird and Not Like Us Humans. I think that’s the one bit of vampire canon we can agree on.
The most original bits of the book – and therefore the most interesting – are when Edward takes trips down memory lane and we discover more about what he was up to during his early pre-Bella vampire years. Why couldn’t we have had more of that? A Twilight prequel would have been a lot more fun than a scene-by-scene re-telling of an existing book.
The first half of this book really drags. We’re way past the halfway mark before Edward even does his sparkly skin party trick. (And the build-up to that goes on forever. It’s tedious having to listen to Edward worry about how Bella is going to find him repulsive and disgusting once she finds out e can look like he’s made of diamonds. Because, yeah, humans hate sparkly things, obviously. The whole nature of Edward’s hideous skin aberration is kept coyly under wraps during Edward’s prolonged mithering. We already know that he glitters like a Claire’s Accessories headband in the sunlight! There can’t be a single person reading this book who hasn’t either read the books, watched the films or seen at least one of the hundreds of Twilight Tinkerbell memes
The minutiae of Bella’s mostly humdrum life is fascinating to Edward. Not so much for the rest of us. Did everything take so long to happen in the original book? Quite possibly. I think I have compressed all four Twilight books into one narrative in my head so I’ve forgotten how much of the first book was just spent faffing about.
Like the original book, it all kicks off later on with perilous mortal danger and whatnot. But it isn’t improved any by being narrated by one of the undead.
He might be over a hundred years old but this glimpse into Edward’s psyche just demonstrates that he is in fact a whiny little seventeen year old at heart. At one point Edward says “I wished … I wouldn’t have time to obsess over and over again about the same problems”. So do we, Edward. So do we.
This book was twelve years in the making. I’m sure Twilight’s many fans are pleased that it’s here. But really, there was little point in it existing in the first place. If there are any new insights into Edward’s character, I’m afraid it was all rather lost in the relentless teenage existential angst. Edward Cullen is literally a mythological creature, you think it would be fun time to spend time in the head of a monster. Sadly, Meyers has demonstrated that it isn’t.