3.05.2010

Book Review: New Moon

Stephenie Meyer
Little Brown, 2008
564 pages
trade paperback

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Well, one thing makes New Moon markedly better than Twilight, and that's the absence of Edward throughout the entire second act of the story.

Otherwise, it's all still pretty bad.

New Moon reminds me of fan fiction, only the characters are original to the author. But the main character--Bella Swan, who narrates--comes off as some kind of Mary Sue for the author (and perhaps, by extension, for the tweenie readers). At any rate, the "production value" of the writing (characters, plot) is low. Which is what I tend to find in the fan fiction community as well, so maybe that's why New Moon reminds me of fanfic.

Loosely, the plot this go-round is: What does Juliet do while Romeo is away? Apparently she becomes even more obnoxious than before, if that's even possible. Or maybe she's just as obnoxious but in a completely different way. Bella (our Juliet) spends most of her time going on and on about the "hole in her chest" that Edward's leaving has left her with. She spends a lot of time clutching her chest and gasping for breath, thereby showing us that Edward's leaving has been physically painful for her. She starts doing daredevil stunts because in the midst of danger she's able to remember Edward's voice--basically he scolds her for being stupid and reckless. And she starts hanging out with a werewolf.

It would be one thing if Edward's leaving had been a true breakup. But of course, Romeo and Juliet must have TRUE love, and so we're not allowed to question their devotion. Oh, Bella does question it, but Bella is ridiculously insecure in that way of adolescent girls--especially those who have guys all wanting to hang out with them and date them. But Bella and Edward are required to have a pristine relationship, and so even when they're apart it's simply a matter of each of them suffering terribly without the other.

So what we end up with is a hyperbolic example of love and devotion, in which each party is SO devoted to the other that it passes realistic and reasonable and goes on to be stunningly stupid. And once again the same conversations occur over and over:

     Bella: I will love you forever! I can't live without you!
     Saber-Toothed Tiger: I will love you forever! And I can't live without you, either!
     Bella: Then turn me into a saber-toothed tiger like you, and we'll be together forever!
     STT: No. Instead I'll wait for you to get old and die, and then I'll kill myself and we'll be together forever in the afterlife!
     Bella: This is because you don't really love me and don't want to be stuck with me for eternity, isn't it?
     STT: Of course not! I will love you forever and can't live without you!
     Bella: Then turn me into a saber-toothed tiger.

And round and round we go.

The truth is, the "real" relationship here is between Bella and her best friend/werewolf Jacob. They have actual conversations and enjoy doing things together. Bella can pour her heart out to Jacob. This is more than we've seen in her interactions with Edward, and this relationship seems much more grounded. It has more chemistry. And maybe that's simply because we get a better look at it than we do the one with Edward, which we're evidently supposed to take at the author's word. What I mean is, we see Jacob and Bella associate in more organic ways (although we're still hounded by Bella's selfish and inane internal commentary as well). Meanwhile, in dealing with the chief relationship in the series Meyer presents us with only: Bella loves Edward; Edward loves Bella; they are meant to be. Really? Then show me. Don't assume I'm going to take it at face value. Because as it stands, it lacks the chemistry you're trying to force me to believe exists.

The one other really egregious problem with the book is the way characters are forced to explain things--either why something is the way it is, or the plot in general. Again, this is a flaw one finds in bad science fiction or fan fiction. It's clumsy. It's the author's way of answering potential questions the reader may have, as if to say, "I know you're wondering why or how, so my character will ask another character and you'll get this answer." There are ways to do this that work. Meyer's way of doing it . . . doesn't. It only underscores (a) how stupid her main character really is, and (b) that Meyer herself didn't appear to think through her own plot or faux world systems.

The sum total, then, of New Moon is that it's better than Twilight. That's about all I can say for it. Will the trend continue with Eclipse? We'll see.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Oh yes, the trend continues to grow in fanfiction style. I always liked Bella better with Jacob. He was much more real to me than Edward. I hated the way she treated Jacob, too. I still love your STT conversation! :)