New Moon picks up several months after Twilight with Bella and Edward starting their senior year of high school. It isn’t long into the book before an incident at the Cullen’s house reminds Edward that he is a vampire so in his century-old wisdom decides the best thing to do is abandon Bella and run away. Bella is, it turns out, completely codependent and has a mental breakdown as a result. The conflict of the novel stems from there as Bella struggles to come to terms with Edward’s departure by avoiding the topic completely then abandoning that tactic and latches onto another overtly-male-though-less-androgynous-but-still-beautiful character Jacob Black. That encapsulated plot might sound harsh but here’s the kicker: a kind of liked it.
Wait! Don’t go! Let me at least explain myself!
Starting New Moon was hard. Really hard. I honestly didn’t really want to read it but being I librarian investigating, or at least making an attempt to understand, reading habits is part of the job. Not everyone likes what I read and I don’t like what everyone else reads but I still need to be able to recommend books. As a participant in and observer of contemporary pop-culture I felt an obligation to investigate the phenomenon of Stephanie Myers’ Twilight series. Despite both of those very academic reasons for starting this journey I still struggled mightily in sitting down and getting started. My mind kept thinking of all the great genre fiction I could be reading I even put the book down with intent of finding another choice.
Then something happened….
I went back. I forced myself to continue reading. I stopped listening to the intellectual side of my brain. On some level I recognized that what I was reading wasn’t very good. The emotions were skewed far into the realm of melodrama, the relationships were frequently disturbing in their intensity, and the plot resolved around a girl trying to deal with her boyfriend breaking up with her. In short I couldn’t stop reading. I know how that sounds but bear with me.
I had a friend in high school once describe to me once how being stuck home sick with his grandmother he started watching soap operas with her. When he got better he kept watching. I laughed at him at the time; mocked him harshly for garnering any type of entertainment value out of daytime television. Now, I guess I understand.
New Moon is a teenage soap opera..with werewolves and vampires. Characters are more accurately charicatures. Emotions are refined and distilled into their most basic form and everyone is overacting. Everything is over-the-top and that is unquivically a good thing. This book is ridiculous. There is little here that even resembles reality. It doesn’t force me to confront hard questions about life or relationships, it doesn’t touch upon social conflicts, it is what it is a pure and simple escape from reality.
You absolutely cannot make an argument that Bella Swan even vaguely resembles someone young women should look up to. I know that perhaps a 26 year-old male is not the most experienced or accurate judge of who or what a female role model should be but the crux of the novel’s plot, Bella’s reaction to Edward’s departure, is based solely on the fact that she is incapable of accepting that “someone like Edward” could ever her love her. She defines herself by who she is with without every exploring who exactly she is (Yes, I know that changes towards the end of the novel but I have no idea if it’s a change that sticks). It’s best to ignore the way Bella treats her father, whom she refers to has Charlie (never Dad) and who, even after disappearing for days at a time, still somehow dictates the terms of their relationship. I’ll stop there because, quite simply, New Moon does not hold up against any sort of real world criticism so it’s best to just accept it as is.
Meyer is still not the best storyteller. The plot never feels organic and things seem to happen more by fiat than anything else. Despite introducing new aspects of her world (here both werewolves and the Volituri) the plot never veers away from the Bella/Edward relationship. The fantasy reader in me hates the fact that her world has no clearly defined rules and that the story never delves into anything bigger than the Bella/Edward relationship. Maybe the scope widens in later novels but I can’t say for sure how that will play out give Meyers’ strenghts, or lack there of, as a writer; though I’d be curious to see what kind of twisted off-the-wall stuff Meyer would include.
I overheard a co-worker say, regarding Stephanie Meyer, “She writes straight from id.” I’d have to say that is a fairly accurate statement. New Moon isn’t for everyone. Especially for those who have difficulty turning off the intelectual portion of the brain. If you’re able to ignore your better judgement and just go with the flow, let the craziness sweep you up without regard for reality or good prose, than I think you’ll enjoy the story here. I don’t like that I like these books. Maybe that says something about me as person, or a critic, I don’t know, but I certainly feel a fair amount of shame with regards to my enjoyment. Even now I’m not sure if enjoyment is the right word…my reading of this books, once it began in earnest, felt more like a compulsion than anything else. Will I continue on to Eclipse? Well, my sister stealthily deposited that volume in my room last night. I’ll probably fight the urge, but the book will sit there mocking me, taunting me with its pressence, until (between other books) I give in. Will I review it here? I doubt it. Maybe, in some form but not in something close to a 1000 word post.