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Breaking Dawn (The Twilight Saga, Book 4) Hardcover – August 2, 2008
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Great love stories thrive on sacrifice. Throughout The Twilight Saga (Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse), Stephenie Meyer has emulated great love stories--Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights--with the fated, yet perpetually doomed love of Bella (the human girl) and Edward (the vampire who feeds on animals instead of humans). In Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final installment in the series, Bella’s story plays out in some unexpected ways. The ongoing conflicts that made this series so compelling--a human girl in love with a vampire, a werewolf in love with a human girl, the generations-long feud between werewolves and vampires--resolve pretty quickly, apparently so that Meyer could focus on Bella’s latest opportunity for self-sacrifice: giving her life for someone she loves even more than Edward. How close she comes to actually making that sacrifice is questionable, which is a big shift from the earlier books. Even though you knew Bella would make it through somehow, the threats to her life, and to her relationship with Edward, had previously always felt real. It’s as if Meyer was afraid of hurting her characters too much, which is unfortunate, because the pain Bella suffered at losing Edward in New Moon, and the pain Jacob suffered at losing Bella again and again, are the fire and the heart that drive the whole series. Diehard fans will stick with Bella, Edward, and Jacob for as many twists and turns as possible, but after most of the characters get what they want with little sacrifice, some readers may have a harder time caring what happens next. (Ages 12 and up) --Heidi Broadhead
From Publishers Weekly
It might seem redundant to dismiss the fourth and final Twilight novel as escapist fantasy--but how else could anyone look at a romance about an ordinary, even clumsy teenager torn between a vampire and a werewolf, both of whom are willing to sacrifice their happiness for hers? Flaws and all, however, Meyer's first three novels touched on something powerful in their weird refraction of our culture's paradoxical messages about sex and sexuality. The conclusion is much thinner, despite its interminable length. [...] But that's not the main problem. Essentially, everyone gets everything they want, even if their desires necessitate an about-face in characterization or the messy introduction of some back story. Nobody has to renounce anything or suffer more than temporarily--in other words, grandeur is out. This isn't about happy endings; it's about gratification. A sign of the times? Ages 12–up. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Now a high school graduate, Bella is preparing to marry her sweetheart Edward Cullen and become a vampire--both because it's what she wants and to satisfy the demands of the royal Volutri (vampire leaders) since she knows of the existence of vampires. But it's a wedding that she also dreads: being the center of attention, with invitations she didn't choose and wouldn't have willingly chosen (one of which was sent to werewolf Jacob Black, and which prompted him to run away), with sky-high heals that might result in broken bones, and fancy wedding dress. But it is a price Bella is willing to pay to get her eternal life--and a real honeymoon before her change. That honeymoon results in the seemingly impossible consequence (for a vampire) of pregnancy and rapidly threatens Bella's life as the pregnancy advances with incredible speed. Yet not even then can Jacob sever whatever tie connects him and Bella. Ultimately, Bella seems to have her cake and eat it too (even though vampires don't eat), and poor Jacob get shafted yet again.
Hopefully Edward and Bella can use their eternity of marriage to fix their issues. Communication is a big problem for them. Edward constantly thinks he knows better than Bella what is best for her. She does seem a little more aware of that than in the past, and has a plan in place to checkmate one of Edward's plans (by involving Rosalie). But Bella isn't much better than Edward in this sense. She isn't willing to see his side of the situation at all or to recognize that her plan might not work out. And after a brief explosion at learning why she and Jacob have always been so connected, Bella's just happy as a fish in the ocean that she'll always have him in her life, even though it involves Jacob being permanently separated from his own life and past. Wonder if years from now this will end up being a regret of Meyer's, much like the Ron/Hermione pairing ended up as one of JK Rowling's regrets.
Edward and Bella's storybook wedding at the Cullen house, and their subsequent honeymoon on a lush tropical island off the coast of Brazil (Carlisle's gift to his wife, Esme), mark the very romantic beginning of the novel. Everything is deceptively peaceful....
Then Bella becomes pregnant, thus setting off the novel's central conflict, for the child grows very quickly, putting her life in danger. Edward and Jacob both want her to have an abortion. She refuses, enlisting Rosalie's help in keeping that from happening.
Of course I loved this novel! The details involved, Meyer's meticulous care to make sure all threads were neatly tied up in the end, are nothing short of masterful! As was apparent from the very first book, her characters are thoroughly fleshed-out, her settings beautifully described, and each event in the story seamlessly leads up to the next.
Bella finally comes into her own in this novel. All her clumsiness is gone; she is now as graceful as a gazelle. And, as a newborn vampire, she's also stronger than even Emmett, easily beating him in several arm-wrestling contests, much to his chagrin. Yet, she's still the Bella that all of us fans have come to know and love, who is heroically self-sacrificing, deeply cherishes her loved ones, and who now turns into a fierce protector of her unusually gifted daughter.
One of the things I especially admired in this novel was Meyer's depiction of a young woman who resolutely refuses to abort her baby, even though the pregnancy endangers her life. This is evidence of Meyer's very strong pro-life stance, with which I wholeheartedly agree. It's also beautiful to see how all the members of the Cullen family do everything in their power to make Bella comfortable during her unusual pregnancy.
In fact, the Saga's overarching theme is the sanctity of human life. The Cullens, just like the Quileute werewolves, are totally committed to protecting humans at any cost, each in their own way. Life is inextricably entangled with love, and this love is a living force that, in turn, makes life precious.
The setting of Forks -- which, in this book, is the only location in which all the action takes place -- is perfect for the unfolding drama. The lush, green forests, the meadows, the almost permanently cloudy skies....all form an appropriately turbulent backdrop for all the ensuing events in the novel. Furthermore, Forks is where it all began, in the first book, so this last novel brings everything full circle back again.
I think that Meyer's solution to the love triangle of Edward, Bella, and Jacob, which took central stage in the third novel, Eclipse, is absolutely brilliant. It's clear evidence of her inventive power, and ties things up very nicely. Some have criticized it as being a little creepy, but I totally disagree. Yes, it's unusual, and totally unexpected. But that's precisely why it's so very perfect. Also, it allows Jacob to go back to being Bella's best friend, which is what he was to her in Twilight, as well as at the beginning of New Moon, the second novel in the series. In other novels, such triangles have usually been resolved through the violent death of one of the people involved. In keeping with her overarching theme, Meyer has chosen a totally original resolution -- a non-violent one.
This was my third reading of the novel, and it surely won't be my last! All of these characters are now like family to me, and so, I feel very strongly tied to them. I love them all -- except for the evil Volturi, of course, although, as villains go, they are truly magnificently depicted. Thanks to Meyer's skillful, psychologically informed writing, I know them all so well -- their dreams, motivations, thoughts, feelings. I will always return to this book, as to the preceding three in the series, in order to become immersed once again in this lushly romantic, incredibly compelling story!