Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, Twilight. You can read my review of this novel [here].
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last nine years, I expect you’ve probably heard of the Twilight Saga. This series was written by Stephenie Meyer and focuses on the forbidden love between a vampire and a human. The first novel, Twilight (2005), was swiftly followed by New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007), Breaking Dawn (2008) and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (2010). The immense popularity of the series sparked a trend of paranormal romance novels – an effect that can still be seen in the market today. For the purpose of today’s review, I’ll be looking at New Moon only.
A few months have passed since the events of Twilight and Bella Swan is finding herself constantly tested by her relationship with Edward. As her eighteenth birthday approaches, she releases that she will continue to age while he remains forever seventeen and the thought of this horrifies her. After an accident at her birthday party almost leads to her death at the hands of Jasper, Edward comes to the decision that his world is just far too dangerous for a human. After painfully declaring that he no longer loves her, he and the rest of the Cullens leave in the night, never to return.
Bella is plunged into depression and finds it impossible to come to terms with his departure. Discovering that she has vivid hallucinations of Edward whenever her life is in danger, she begins to perform increasingly dangerous acts just to hear his voice again. Her daredevil lifestyle leads her to a new friendship with Jacob Black, beginning with a mutual desire to repair a motorcycle and gradually blossoming into something more.
However, all is not well in Forks. Bella is still haunted by nightmares about Edward and is plagued with confusion with regards to her growing feelings for Jacob. On top of this, Victoria has returned to town, harbouring a bitter resentment for the death of her partner at Edward’s hands. Driven by her desire to take Bella’s life – a mate for a mate – she begins to mercilessly hunt the teenager. With the Cullens long gone, who can protect her from a messy end at the vampire’s fangs?
When I read Twilight I noted that, while it did not speak to me, I could fully see why some readers rated it so highly. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about New Moon. All the problems that I noted with its precursor are also readily apparent in this novel, only they somehow manage to be even more offensive this time round.
For starters, the novel is painfully slow. While Twilight increased in pace in the last quarter, leading to what was ultimately a rather intense final showdown with James, New Moon never managed to incite the same curiosity to me. There were two moments of real excitement in the novel – the appearance of Laurent and the race to save Edward from the Volturi – but both were somewhat underplayed and lacking in tension. Beyond these, the novel was peppered with interesting moments (particular ones of note were the brutality of the Volturi and Bella’s famous cliff dive) but they were so few and far between to really create any kind of lasting interest.
Stuff certainly did happen in the novel, but it was almost entirely off page. The novel’s first person narrative was far too restrictive, resulting in Bella hearing about most plot elements long after they had occurred. I would like to have witnessed Edward’s first meeting with the Volturi but it is instead summed up in a sentence from Alice. Similarly the antagonist – Victoria – never actually appeared in the story as Bella didn’t ever encounter her. Instead, all we learn about her are from multiple second hand accounts as Jacob and his brothers attempt to track her down. For me, this removed all effectiveness that she would have otherwise had as a villain. How can I share Bella’s fears if she never seems to be in any danger?
In the absence of a driving plot, 90% of the novel was taken up by angst – lengthy and repetitive monologues by Bella as she emphasised just how empty she felt without Edward in her life. Lather, rinse and repeat. Particularly in the first half of the novel, her lamentations were endless and covered the same themes over and over again. Perhaps if the book had been two hundred pages shorter, this would not have felt so offensive but reading so much solid drama was utterly exhausting. I know that depression is a serious condition and it’s not something easily shrugged off but it can still be presented in a novel in an interesting way. The Bone Dragon is a novel that I would recommend again and again as it presents a very realistic first person narrative regarding a girl suffering from severe depression, never stooping to the level of pretentious melodrama that New Moon achieves.
It also felt like the story was just trying to be far more clever than it actually was through its Shakespearean references. Although the subtext wasn’t really there in Twilight, New Moon tries to draw many parallels between itself and Romeo and Juliet. Its attempts to do so lack subtlety, following each reference with a lengthy passage to explain how it is adapted from the classic play (““Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, hath had no power yet upon thy beauty,” he murmured, and I recognised the line spoken by Romeo in the tomb”). It’s heavy handed and, in my opinion, unnecessary. A good reference does not need to be pointed out to the reader. The analogy also makes less sense the more that I think about it. Edward and Bella are star-crossed lovers, in a sense, but the warring families are embodied more in the Cullens and the Quileutes. If this is the case, comparing Jacob to Paris does not really work as Paris belonged to neither family. Perhaps comparing Jacob to Tybalt would have worked better, yet it was Mercutio that fought Tybalt, not Romeo… Ahh well, I’m getting bogged down on this tangent so it’s probably time to move on…
The thing that frustrated me the most about the novel were the characters. In Twilight, the cast was rather large – consisting of the entire Cullen family and Bella’s school friends – but in New Moon the focus has narrowed significantly. Now plot largely fixates on Bella, Jacob, Edward (although he is absent for most of the novel) and, to a lesser degree, a few members of the Quileute tribe. While the background characters were flat and forgettable, the principle love triangle never ceased to frustrate me.
Mary-Sue Bella has now devolved to the point where she measures all of her self-worth on a man. A life without Edward in it is not worth living. Bypassing most stages of grief, she just flips straight to near suicidal depression and never expresses any kind of animosity towards Edward for his abandonment of her. Instead, she blames herself for him leaving her, feeling that it’s her fragility next to his godly perfection that makes her unworthy of him. There are two words for this. Victim blaming. I think I’ve made clear by now that I like strong female characters. I like the Katniss’s of young adult literature – the characters that can support themselves and exist without needing the constant protection of a man. Bella is just a damsel in distress who is completely unable to function without a big strong manly man to protect her.
In relation to this, Edward is thoroughly detestable in this novel. How can I possibly like a character who would just dump a girl with no explanation and run away, leaving her devastated? His actions in this novel are nothing short of selfish, completely disregarding her feelings when they conflict with his own. For me, it was fully understandable that she would want to become a vampire – to stop aging rather than gradually grow older and infirm before his eyes. Although Bella seems able to forgive him instantly, this just proves that she is a kinder person than me. I hated him in Twilight and I hate him all the more now.
The only character I kind of liked in this whole mess was Jacob. At first, he seemed to be caring and funny and sweet – a far better match for Bella than Edward ever was. However, towards the end, his character development took a turn for the worst and lead to him growing increasingly childish. By the novel’s close, he’s regressed to primary school mentality, giving Bella the ultimatum that if she remains friends with Edward, she can’t be his friend too. By the end of this story, I’m still wholeheartedly Team Carlisle – the only character I care about – whose absence in this novel was dearly missed.
Anyhow, this is getting long so I’ll wrap up. I did not enjoy reading New Moon at all as I felt it was a lot less engrossing than Twilight. There is next to no action in the story and instead it is padded with hundreds of pages of monotonous lamentations. The characters were superficial and overly angsty and the novel just never felt as though it got going. I really hope that the series will improve in Eclipse, as it certainly suffered greatly from the Cullens’ absence.