So Bad, I Read It For You: Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon. As this is the sequel to Twilight, I’d recommend a catch-up before reading. Full spoilers to follow for the curious folks who can’t find time for this 563-page guide on How Not to Have a Healthy Relationship.
Super Short Version
Bella is mortal, but Edward isn’t. He dumps her. She goes catatonic and finally surfaces long enough to start dating a werewolf (the enemy of the vampires). There’s a bunch of miscommunication that leads Edward to think Bella killed herself, so he wants to die too, and Bella has to save him before he can provoke a group of vampires into killing him. Think of Romeo and Juliet, except they both live and one is a vampire.
Long version, with textual support
New Moon begins with a dream in which Bella introduces Edward to her grandmother. The dream turns to a nightmare when she realizes her grandmother isn’t there, only a mirror that reflects her aged self alongside Edward’s teenage perfection. This dream fuels Bella’s greatest insecurity and drives much of the book. She is afraid of turning 18 and being officially older than Edward, who still masquerades as 17. If this wasn’t enough for her to insist on vampirification (my word), her mortality has another consequence: When she dies, Edward will kill himself rather than live in a world without her. He tells her that he considered this before, when it looked like she might not pull through at the end of Twilight.
“Well, I wasn’t going to live without you.” He rolled his eyes as if that fact were childishly obvious. “But I wasn’t sure how to do it—I knew Emmett and Jasper would never help. . . . I was thinking maybe I would go to Italy and do something to provoke the Volturi.” (19)
The Volturi enforce the secrecy of vampires. If Edward were to make himself too obvious (killing sprees, sparkling in sunlight), the Volturi would destroy him. Bella and Edward halt this grim conversation so Bella can perk up for the birthday party Alice planned with the Cullens. They treat her like family and things go well until Bella cuts her finger when unwrapping her gift. Edward pushes Bella out of the way and Jasper slams into him; they struggle. Unfortunately, Bella has knocked everything off the table and is lying on shattered crystal.
Dazed and disoriented, I looked up from the bright red blood pulsing out of my arm—into the fevered eyes of six suddenly ravenous vampires. (29)
Jasper is taken outside, the others excuse themselves, and Dr. Cullen (a model of self-control) stitches Bella’s arm. Edward stays with her until Dr. Cullen finds an excuse to send him away. Edward explains his disappointment when driving Bella home.
“. . . Mike Newton could have held your hand while they stitched you up—and he wouldn’t be fighting the urge to kill you the whole time he was there. Don’t try to take any of this on yourself, Bella. It will only make me more disgusted with myself.”
“How the hell did Mike Newton end up in this conversation?” I demanded.
“Mike Newton ended up in the conversation because Mike Newton would be a hell of a lot healthier for you to be with,” he growled.
“I’d rather die than be with Mike Newton,” I protested. “I’d rather die than be with anyone but you.” (45)
Edward becomes distant after the party and dumps her. He informs her that the Cullens are leaving Forks, WA. There’s a little awkwardness when Bella takes the “we” in “we’re leaving” to include her, but she catches on. When he leaves, he takes all reminders of himself (right down to her birthday gift). He assures her this will make it as though he never existed, and she’ll be better able to move on. In return, he asks that she promise not to do anything reckless.
Bella is near catatonic in her depression. When Charlie (her dad) considers sending her to live with her mother, she decides to make an effort. She goes with a school friend to see a movie, but when they are looking for a place to eat, Bella is drawn to a group of men outside a bar. At first, she suspects they’re the men from whom Edward saved her in Twilight. As she gets closer, she hears Edward’s voice telling her to stop, a hallucination, but she is so grateful for his voice that she pushes the situation.
I took another step forward, testing.
“Bella, turn around,” he growled.
I sighed in relief. The anger was what I wanted, to hear–false, fabricated evidence that he cared, a dubious gift from my subconscious. (113)
Eventually the moment breaks; she turns back, but her hallucination fuels an EPIPHANY.
It made me feel silly for ever worrying about keeping my promise. Where was the logic in sticking to an agreement that had already been violated by the other party? Who cared if I was reckless and stupid? There was no reason to avoid recklessness, no reason why I shouldn’t get to be stupid. . . .
To be reckless in Forks would take a lot of creativity—maybe more than I had. But I wished I could find some way. (125)
Question: Who should care if Bella is reckless and stupid?
Answer: Bella. Bella should care if she is reckless and stupid.
But now the vampires are gone and wrapping paper holds none of its previous danger. What should she do? She buys a pair of busted motorcycles and remembers her old friend, Jacob Black, and his proficiency with cars.
She soon realizes that hanging around with Jacob is fun. She catches herself laughing occasionally and looking forward to seeing him. Her nightmares stop and she’s able to sleep through the night. All this because:
It was Jacob himself. Jacob was simply a perpetually happy person, and he carried that happiness with him like an aura, sharing it with whoever was near him. Like an earthbound sun, whenever someone was within his gravitational pull, Jacob warmed them. It was natural, a part of who he was. No wonder I was so eager to see him. (145)
You might think there is a love triangle forming. There are two books after New Moon. Do you think Edward isn’t coming back? Bella swats down this potential.
I hadn’t forgotten the reason for what I was doing. And, even though I was enjoying myself more than I’d thought possible, there was no lessening of my original desire. I still wanted to cheat. It was senseless, and I really didn’t care. I was going to be as reckless as I could possibly manage in Forks. I would not be the only keeper of an empty contract. Getting to spend time with Jacob was just a much bigger perk than I’d expected. (147)
When Jacob teaches her to ride (sans helmet), it’s everything she hoped it would be. She is being reckless, and this provokes the auditory hallucinations of Edward’s anger.
I’d had the most amazing hallucination today. My velvet-voiced delusion had yelled at me for almost five minutes before I’d hit the brake too abruptly and launched myself into the tree. I’d take whatever pain that would cause me tonight without complaint. (193)
But there’s still Jacob.
How was I ever going to fight the blurring lines in our relationship when I enjoyed being with him so much? (210)
Though it’s clear Jacob cares for her, Bella just can’t be with him.
I was an empty shell. Like a vacant house–condemned–for months I’d been utterly uninhabitable. Now I was a little improved. The front room was in better repair. But that was all–just one small piece. He deserved better than that–better than a one-room, falling-down fixer-upper. No amount of investment on his part could put me back in working order. (216)
She goes on a weird semi-date with Jacob and Mike Newton. It was supposed to a group thing, but everyone else called out sick. Mike gets sick at the end of the movie and leaves. Jacob and Bella get sick too, but when Bella is finally better, she’s surprised to hear Jacob isn’t. Left on her own, she searches for the meadow where Edward showed off his sunlit, sparkling chest back in the day and finds Laurent there (a member of the group of vampires who wanted to kill her in Twilight). He tells her that Victoria (another vampire) wants revenge on Edward for killing her mate. She plans to kill Bella so that Edward will understand her loss. Laurent tells Bella that she’s lucky he was the one to find her, because he’ll kill her quickly, not like Victoria.
With perfect timing, five enormous wolves appear and chase Laurent away. Bella realizes these wolves must be the “bears” everyone has been blaming for hiker deaths in the area. She doesn’t understand why Laurent is so frightened to see them, being a vampire and all, but is able to escape. She sees Jacob soon after, but he’s had a mammoth growth-spurt and is now tall and muscled. Though he seems tormented, he can’t tell her what is happening. It’s a secret. He asks her to guess, though, since he wants to tell her. When she remembers their vampire and werewolf chat, it clicks: Jacob is a werewolf. She’s upset to realize he may be involved with the deaths of hikers in the area and calls him out.
“No, Jake, no. It’s not that you’re a… wolf. That’s fine,” I promised him, and I knew as I said the words that I meant them. I really didn’t care if he turned into a big wolf—he was still Jacob. “If you could just find a way not to hurt people… that’s all that upsets me. These are innocent people, Jake, people like Charlie, and I can’t just look the other way while you—”
“Is that all? Really?” he interrupted me, a smile breaking across his face. “You’re scared because I’m a murderer? That’s the only reason?” (307-308)
The werewolves are good, like the Cullens. Perhaps even better than the Cullens since they don’t have a compulsive blood lust. They exist entirely to hunt down vampires and have nothing to do with the dead hikers who were in fact killed by Laurent and Victoria. Victoria is still on the loose and looking for something. Bella tells Jacob that she is what Victoria is after, so Jacob reassures her that he (and his pack) will keep her safe.
It’s obvious to everyone, except Bella, that she is becoming closer and closer to Jacob.
“I do spend most of my time with Jacob, though. He’s my best friend.”
Mike’s eyes narrowed shrewdly. “Don’t kid yourself, Bella. The guy’s head over heels for you.”
“I know,” I sighed. “Life is complicated.”
“And girls are cruel,” Mike said under his breath.
Her primary focus remains on being reckless enough to hear Edward’s voice so one day she goes cliff-diving.
I smiled and exhaled.
Yes? I didn’t answer out loud, for fear that the sound of my voice would shatter the beautiful illusion. He sounded so real, so close. It was only when he was disapproving like this that I could hear the true memory of his voice–the velvet texture and the musical intonation that made up the most perfect of all voices.
“Don’t do this,” he pleaded.
You wanted me to be human, I reminded him. Well, watch me.
Please. For me.”
But you won’t stay with me any other way. . . .
“No, Bella!” He was angry now, and the anger was so lovely. (358-359)
Bella handles the diving part okay but would have drowned without Jacob appearing to fish her from the water. She wonders:
Would it be so wrong to try to make Jacob happy? Even if the love I felt for him was no more than a weak echo of what I was capable of, even if my heart was far away, wandering and grieving after my fickle Romeo, would it be so very wrong? (375)
Then Alice (Edward’s sister) shows up. With her gift of foresight, she was able to see Bella’s decision to jump off the cliff, but because werewolves and their actions are invisible to her vampiric skillz, she missed the part where Jacob saved her and assumed the worst: that Bella had killed herself. She immediately returned to Forks in the event she was able to do anything to help.
Bella and Jacob have a minor romantic moment while Alice waits outside.
I stared back at him. He was not my Jacob, but he could be. His face was familiar and beloved. In so many real ways, I did love him. He was my comfort, my safe harbor. Right now, I could choose to have him belong to me. (411)
The phone rings, ruining the moment. Jacob answers and it’s Dr. Cullen asking after Charlie. Jacob tells Dr. Cullen that Charlie is at a funeral and doesn’t clarify that the funeral is for a family friend. Alice comes back inside, upset. She has seen Edward’s latest decision: He has decided to go to Italy to provoke the Volturi into killing him. Turns out that it wasn’t Dr. Cullen on the phone after all. Word of Alice’s vision reached Edward and he was calling to check in. When Jacob told him that Charlie was at a funeral, Edward assumed the funeral was for Bella. Alice and Bella jump on the next flight to Italy. Bella scrawls a quick note to her father for when he gets home. As they talk on the plane, Alice makes it clear she’s getting a little tired of the drama that comes of a vampire dating a human.
“Actually, Bella…” She hesitated, and then seemed to make a choice. “Honestly, I think it’s all gotten beyond ridiculous. I’m debating whether to just change you myself.”
I stared at her, frozen with shock. Instantly, my mind resisted her words. I couldn’t afford that kind of hope if she changed her mind.
“Did I scare you?” she wondered. “I thought that’s what you wanted.”
“I do!” I gasped. “Oh, Alice, do it now! I could help you so much—and I wouldn’t slow you down. Bite me!” (436)
Geez, Bella. Not at 30,000 feet! Anyway, in Italy, Alice steals a svelte sports car at the airport. They rush to where Edward is planning to step into the sun in the middle of a crowded square. Bella, knowing exactly where he will be, courtesy of Alice’s gift, runs straight to him and sees him a moment before he steps into the sun.
I’d never seen anything more beautiful—even as I ran, gasping and screaming, I could appreciate that. And the last seven months meant nothing. And his words in the forest meant nothing. And it did not matter if he did not want me. I would never want anything but him, no matter how long I lived. (451)
It takes a second for Edward to believe that she’s real and not dead, but he moves back to the shadows. The Volturi escort them away anyway. They want Edward to join them on account of his ability to read minds at a distance. Also, they’re not thrilled that he has shared so much about vampires with Bella. The meeting is very odd as everyone marvels over Edward and Bella and their relationship. None of the Volturi are able to exert their influences over Bella: They can’t read her mind, and they can’t do the Cruciatus curse on her (sorry for the Harry Potter reference, but it’s the best way to explain it). The Volturi want her to become a vampire since there’s something unusual about her, but Edward won’t transform her.
Alice asks Aro (the one who can read minds) to touch her hand. When he does, he sees her intention to transform Bella. Placated that Bella will be bitten soon enough, the Volturi allow them to leave. In the hall, Bella sees a group of people being brought in as a feast for the vampires. She’s horrified, but since she won’t ever be that kind of vampire, she shrugs it off.
Now she and Edward need to talk since he’s being all affectionate like he never dumped her at all. He explains that he was lying about not wanting her; he just wanted her to get on with her life. It makes sense to me: he won’t transform her; she can’t handle the insecurity of aging around him; etc. Anyway, Bella owes Edward an apology for taking him at his word.
“But how could you believe me? After all the thousand times I’ve told you I love you, how could you let one word break your faith in me?” (510)
Edward was able to break Bella’s faith so easily, because she STILL does not have faith in him. After his tales of devotion, she thinks again of his refusal to make her a vampire.
I remembered his face when Aro had almost begged him to consider making me immortal. The sick look there. Was this fixation with keeping me human really about my soul, or was it because he wasn’t sure he wanted me around that long? (518)
But she comes around.
Option three: Edward loved me. The bond forged between us was not one that could be broken by absence, distance, or time. And no matter how much more special or beautiful or brilliant or perfect than me he might be, he was as irreversibly altered as I was. As I would always belong to him, so would he always be mine. (527)
Bella isn’t letting go of her dream to join the undead. They strike a deal that he will bite her after she has some more human experiences.
“Nineteen I’ll do. But I’m not going anywhere near twenty. If you’re staying in your teens forever, then so am I.”
He thought for a minute. “All right. Forget time limits. If you want me to be the one—then you’ll just have to meet one condition.”
“Condition?” My voice went flat. “What condition?”
His eyes were cautious—he spoke slowly. “Marry me first.”
I stared at him, waiting. . . . “Okay. What’s the punch line?”
He sighed. “You’re wounding my ego, Bella. I just proposed to you, and you think it’s a joke.”
“Edward, please be serious.”
“I am one hundred percent serious.” He gazed at me with no hint of humor in his face.
“Oh, c’mon,” I said, an edge of hysteria in my voice.
“Well, I’m nearly a hundred and ten. It’s time I settled down.”
I looked away, out the dark window, trying to control the panic before it gave me away. (540)
Whaaaaaaaaat? Fortunately, Edward takes the words right out of my mouth:
“Bella, if you compare the level of commitment between a marital union as opposed to bartering your soul in exchange for an eternity as a vampire . . . If you’re not brave enough to marry me, then—”
“Well,” I interrupted. “What if I did? What if I told you to take me to Vegas now? Would I be a vampire in three days?”
He smiled, his teeth flashing in the dark. “Sure,” he said, calling my bluff. “I’ll get my car.”
“Dammit.” I muttered. “I’ll give you eighteen months.” (541)
Now that she is back with Edward, where does that leave Jacob? Oh right, he’s a jerk because he doesn’t want her to be with Edward on account of the vampire thing. Can you blame Jacob for trying? They argue and she tells him off, but this makes them both sad.
Jacob watched us with a dark scowl on his bitter face. The anticipation drained from his eyes, and the, just before the forest came between us, his face suddenly crumpled in pain.
I knew that last glimpse of his face would haunt me until I saw him smile again.
And right there I vowed that I would see him smile, and soon. I would find a way to keep my friend.
Edward kept his arm tight around my waist, holding me close. That was the only thing that held the tears inside my eyes.
I had some serious problems.
My best friend counted me with his enemies.
Victoria was still on the loose, putting everyone I loved in danger.
If I didn’t become a vampire soon, the Volturi would kill me.
And now it seemed that if I did, the Quileute werewolves would try to do the job themselves—along with trying to kill my future family. I didn’t think they had any chance really, but would my best friend get himself killed in the attempt? (562)
To be fair, most of those problems existed at the beginning of the book. There was just no time to explore them when there was a love triangle to develop.