on May 27, 2013
This was my third re-reading of the novel, which is the second one in Meyer's beloved series. I read it as avidly as I did the first two times! I know there will be future re-readings, as well.
I had not posted a review of the book before because so much has been said about it, in other reviews -- on Goodreads, Amazon, and countless blogs, although not everyone likes this book, (nor do they like the entire series). Still, I felt it was time for me to post my thoughts about this installment in the Saga, since I have embarked on a third reading of all four books.
This is a very bittersweet novel, due to the introduction of the love triangle of Bella, Edward, and Jacob. In the first novel, Twilight, the intense relationship of Bella and Edward was the main focus throughout. In this one, Jacob makes it clear to Bella that he has fallen in love with her, even as he realizes she only considers him her best friend.
The story opens with a deceptively happy event -- Bella's eighteenth birthday. Bella is hypersensitive about celebrating this event, because Edward is eternally seventeen, of course, and she has been pleading with him, since the first book, to make her a vampire so that she can be as young-looking as he is, forever. She's terrified of growing old and being mistaken for his grandmother in the future.
Not to be deterred by Bella's reluctance to acknowledge the big day, the irrepressible Alice plans a party for her. And this is where the novel's emotionally-wrenching, unexpected plot twist takes place....At the party, Bella cuts herself when opening her birthday card, and Jasper, suddenly crazy with bloodlust, attempts to attack her. Although the other Cullens do restrain him, Edward makes a fateful decision -- to leave Bella, for her own good. He doesn't want to place her in any more danger because of his vampire nature, and also wants her to have a chance at a normal human life.
After Edward tells Bella he no longer wants her, abandoning her in the forest near her house, she sinks into a three-month-long depression. When I read the novel the first time, I sank into a depression right along with her. After all, I remember what I went through during my divorce... Bella describes feeling a 'hole' in the middle of her chest, and I can definitely relate to that. The pain of losing such an important relationship is very deep and all-consuming, and Meyer's description of the desolation and emptiness is very much spot on.
When Bella makes an interesting discovery -- she's able to hear and see Edward every time she's in a dangerous situation -- she decides to deliberately place herself in such situations in order to elicit these hallucinations. Enter Jacob, who will help her restore a couple of old motorcycles, and teach her how to ride one of them. Thus begins Bella's new flirting with danger. She is elated to hear Edward berating her, pleading with her, to be careful, when she's in danger. Her new friendship with Jacob, who made some brief appearances in the first book, not only makes it easier for her to engage in these activities, but also helps her to deal with the loss of Edward. While she's with her friend, she feels grounded, safe. The tattered edges of her hole are almost -- although not quite -- closed.
Jacob, who later joins the Quileute pack of werewolves after he discovers he's able to shapeshift into one himself, is an entirely lovable character! I fell under his spell this time around as well. He's a marked contrast to Edward because, in spite of being a werewolf, he's still human. It's wonderful to see how gentle he is with Bella, as well as how he makes her laugh, bringing her out of herself. Many fans are "Team Jacob", and I myself was torn for a while.... Bella would have had a great life with him. They would have had several kids, laughed and played together... I can almost see it. Jacob is just as loyal as Edward, just as committed to not hurting Bella as Edward is. He is more down-to-earth, though. With him, Bella can be totally herself. She forgets all of her self-deprecation. Jacob represents life in all of its immediacy and reality, while Edward represents a nearly impossible ideal of existence, devoid of the natural cycles of human development.
Yes, I was tempted to want Jacob to be Bella's true love. Meyer makes a very compelling case for him, after all. But then, whenever Bella experienced one of her Edward hallucinations, I yearned to see them together again... This was also the author's way of gently reminding the reader that Edward was somehow still in the picture.
In this novel, Alice becomes very important to the plot, and she and Bella become more than friends -- they are now sisters, united in one purpose: to protect Edward from himself. Alice can see the future after all, and she knows his plans. She and Bella become powerful allies in their quest to help Edward.
Alice has been one of my favorite characters from the beginning, but I especially liked her in this novel. She's so much fun! She's also gentle, compassionate, totally unpredictable, and very loyal to Bella. Her failed attempts to turn Bella into a glamour queen are not only funny, but poignant. She really does care about Bella like a sister. How I wish I had a real-life friend like her!
The reader gets to meet the frighteningly evil vampire clan, the Volturi, toward the end of the book, which brings the narrative full circle back to Edward. Aro, their leader, is especially terrifying, with his syrupy- sweet exclamations that barely conceal his true motives. He has a very powerful talent -- that of seeing all of a person's thoughts -- past, present, and future -- while clasping that person's hand. Jane, the young vampire who truly looks like an angel, can immerse anyone -- except Bella -- in agonizing pain with her intense stare. Felix and Demetri are Aro's goons, doing his bidding unquestioningly, while Alec has undisclosed powers of his own. In the movie version, he has the power to emit a dark mist that effectively cuts off a person's entire sensory input.
I found the novel's pulse-pounding climax to be extremely satisfying. Klutzy Bella becomes a hero! This, I think, should lay aside all those ridiculous criticisms of Bella perpetually being a damsel in distress. She is now irrevocably a member of the Cullen clan, even though she's not a vampire -- yet.
Everything about this novel attracted me when I first read it, and I continued to feel that attraction during this third reading! I love the characters! The setting, which is full of lush forests and snow-capped mountains, is incredibly beautiful, in spite of all the rain (and actually, it didn't rain all the time). The plot itself, with its poignant, emotionally-packed events, described in a very engaging prose style, is totally riveting. Of course, I also loved it when the action shifted to Italy, with its spectacular landscapes. The town of Volterra was splendidly medieval, with its closely-packed buildings and quaint streets.
The ultimate power of this novel, and indeed, of the entire series, is the power of true love. Even though this power is presented through a paranormal tale, it is more important than the supernatural beings and events in the book. True, monogamous love, passionate and powerful, is the true protagonist of this beautifully-written book. Edward and Bella embody that love, while Jacob longs for it -- with Bella.
The huge appeal of this series is precisely that -- the presentation of an eternal, everlasting love, never to be destroyed, never to decrease....
In the midst of all the vampire and werewolf action, this is what matters about New Moon -- the eternal love of Edward and Bella. It's why I have read this novel, and am reading the entire series, again. I will never tire of it. Of course there will be other books, other stories. But I will always, always return to these tales of love, with their powerfully compelling characters and strongly emotional conflicts. That's because they deeply satisfy my soul.