SBIRIFY: Eclipse

So Bad, I Read It For You: Stephenie Meyer’s Eclipse. We’ve arrived at book three of the Twilight Saga. If you’re not familiar, I recommend a catch-up of Twilight (Book One) and New Moon (Book Two). The following review contains all major plot points for everyone who wants to know what happens without reading the book. I’ve read it, so you don’t have to. (Book Three clocks in at 629 pages—they’re getting longer! Help me.)

EclipsecoverSuper Short Version:
The Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle gains steam through the first half as Edward tries to limit Bella’s contact with Jacob. Victoria, still intent on avenging her dead lover, creates an army of newborn vampires to distract the Cullens (Edward’s coven) while she goes for Bella. To defeat this army, the Cullens team up with the werewolves. Away from the main fight, Edward and Bella are attacked by Victoria. Edward kills her; the newborn army is defeated; and the Volturi arrive. The Volturi, the vampires’ ruling body, have two concerns: 1) the newborn army rampaging around Seattle, 2) human Bella knows too much. After killing the only surviving newborn, the Volturi are placated to hear there is a date set for Bella’s vampirification, and leave. Despite confessing her love to Jacob, Bella chooses Edward and accepts his engagement. Jacob, broken-hearted, runs off in wolf form to avoid the pain of being human.

Long Version, with textual support:
We pick up where we left off:

I glared at him. No danger? I only had a sadistic vampire trying to avenge her mate’s death with my own, preferably through some slow and tortuous method. Who was worried about Victoria? And, oh yeah, the Volturi — the vampire royal family with their small army of vampire warriors — who insisted that my heart stop beating one way or another in the near future, because humans weren’t allowed to know they existed. (24)

Bella still wants to be a vampire and Edward is holding firm to his one condition for her transformation: their marriage. For Bella, marriage remains a bridge too far.

With the blood still pounding in my head from Edward’s kiss, I couldn’t help but think of my mother’s most life-altering mistake. Silly and romantic, getting married fresh out of high school to a man she barely knew, then producing me a year later. She’d always promised me that she had no regrets, that I was the best gift her life had ever given her. And yet she’d drilled it into me over and over — smart people took marriage seriously. (45)

I keep waiting for the parallel: “smart people take losing their humanity seriously,” but it never comes. This is largely due to the fact that Bella doesn’t see vampires as fundamentally monstrous. She doesn’t understand how the Cullens’ full nature is hidden from her, and she was not witness to their traumatic transformations. She sees them as they are now: beautiful, strong, supernaturally gifted, and wealthy.

She’s still friends with Jacob, but Edward thwarts her plans to visit. At one point, Bella finds that her truck won’t start. Edward appears, twirling an engine part in his hands:

“[Alice] got nervous when your future rather abruptly disappeared five minutes ago.”
My eyes, already wide with surprise, popped wider.
“Because she can’t see the wolves, you know,” he explained in the same low murmur. “Had you forgotten that? When you decide to mingle your fate with theirs, you disappear, too. […]”
I listened to his musing in stone silence.
“I’ll put your car back together in time for school, in case you’d like to drive yourself,” he assured me after a minute.
With my lips mashed together, I retrieved my keys and stiffly climbed out of the truck. (63)

Controlling much?

We return to New Moon territory with Bella’s fixation on the age gap. She needs to be a vampire NOW. Edward stopped at 17, and she’s pushing 19. She’s been so quick to insist on vampirification to stop the aging process (oh, and for Edward) that Rosalie Cullen starts to worry Bella doesn’t understand the consequences.

“Don’t you see, Bella?” Her voice was suddenly more passionate than before, even while she’d told her unhappy story. “You already have everything. You have a whole life ahead of you—everything I want. And you’re going to just throw it away. Can’t you see that I’d trade everything I have to be you? You have the choice that I didn’t have, and you’re choosing wrong!” (166)

And:

“You’re too young to know what you’ll want in ten years, fifteen years—and too young to give it all up without thinking it through. You don’t want to be rash about permanent things, Bella.” (167)

I love that this appeal comes from Rosalie. Until now, she has only been a source of insecurity for Bella as she’s the most unabashedly beautiful of the Cullens. Hearing that Rosalie is jealous of her gets through a little, but Bella is undeterred.

Edward is still creepy in his insistence that she not go to La Push, so Jacob arrives to steal her away. In La Push, Bella learns how werewolves find their soul mates. Because I know what happens in Book Four, I know where this is going and it’s super, super weird. Because this post is long already, I’ll save this until, no—I’m not going to make up excuses. I’m not getting into it now, because I don’t have the strength.

FINALLY (note the page number), the dim, background threat starts to come into focus: lots of people are turning up dead and it’s officially a plot point. Cops suspect serial killers, but the Cullens suspect a newborn vampire. Newly transformed vampires are governed by their bloodlust and can’t control themselves. When things get too conspicuous, the Volturi act as a clean-up crew.

“This can’t be the work of just one newborn vampire. What’s going on? It’s as if they’ve never heard of the Volturi. Which is possible, I guess. No one has explained the rules to them… so who is creating them, then?” (229)

But, there’s also a mystery closer to home: someone stole some of Bella’s clothes. The Cullens worry that she’s being tracked as the stolen items contain her scent. Neither of these things is enough to swerve the main focus of the book which remains fixed upon Bella’s various insecurities. She worries a lot about the fact that Edward’s less than thrilled at the prospect of her upcoming transformation. (Edward speaks first.)

“For me to allow this—to let you become what I am just so that I’ll never have to lose you—is the most selfish act I can imagine. I want it more than anything, for myself. But for you, I want so much more. Giving in—it feels criminal. It’s the most selfish thing I’ll ever do, even if I live forever.
“If there were any way for me to become human for you—no matter what the price was, I would pay it.”
I sat very still, absorbing this.
Edward thought he was being selfish.
I felt the smile slowly spread across my face.
“So… it’s not that you’re afraid you won’t… like me as much when I’m different—when I’m not soft and warm, and I don’t smell the same? You really do want to keep me, no matter how I turn out?”

Maybe this is why the teen set crushes out on Edward: his endless affirmations. Bella is subject to a loop of insecurities and no matter how many times she spools them out, no matter how many repetitively sincere moments they share, Edward has to answer same old questions: Do you really love me? Do you really think I’m attractive? In real life, there is a cap to the number of times you can run to your partner for this. It’s important to buck yourself up and build confidence that isn’t directly linked to your partner’s assessment of your value.

If anyone has a cause for insecurity, it’s Edward. His partner, while willing to be a vampire, balks at the idea of marriage. No matter how or when Edward brings it up, it prompts the same reaction.

“I’m not that girl, Edward. The one who gets married right out of high school like some small-town hick who got knocked up by her boyfriend! Do you know what people would think? Do you realize what century this is? People don’t just get married at eighteen! Not smart people, not responsible, mature people!” (276)

The Internet tells us that Bella’s reaction is Meyer’s lack of endorsement in young marriage. She doesn’t want to encourage teens to marry the first person to catch their eye in high school. Her apparent endorsement of vampirification is probably because vampires aren’t really a thing. That’s fine, I get it, but man-oh-man does this make for some weird motivations. Bella doesn’t seem to evaluate marriage beyond not being that girl and she has to be a vampire NOW so she doesn’t spend decades looking like a cougar. She’s also missing the obvious: how will it look when she up and (mostly) vanishes with a boy she just met? Probably a lot like she married him.

Meanwhile, Seattle remains the hunting ground of the newborn vampires. The Cullens need to step up. They turn to the other local coven, but it’s a no-go. They make a bad offer and the Cullens refuse it to fight alone. Bella wants to fight too, completely missing the point that, were they to transform her now, she would just be one more blood-crazed newborn. This doesn’t stop her from thinking about it though.

There was just something about him being the one to make the choice—to want to keep me enough that he wouldn’t just allow me to be changed, he would act to keep me. It was childish, but I liked the idea that his lips would be the last good thing I would feel. Even more embarrassingly, something I would never say aloud, I wanted his venom to poison my system. It would make me belong to him in a tangible, quantifiable way. (324)

But, don’t forget Jacob!

“I’m in love with you, Bella.” Jacob said in a strong, sure voice. “Bella, I love you. And I want you to pick me instead of him. I know you don’t feel that way, but I need the truth out there so that you know your options. I wouldn’t want a miscommunication to stand in our way.” (327)

After the events of New Moon, this isn’t wholly out of left field. Jacob kisses her and ignores her protestations. Bella punches him, breaking her hand on his jaw.

Jacob and Edward have some weird man-t0-man (vampire-to-wolf?) argument about who Bella should really be with and neither is dissuaded. The book takes a creepy turn when Bella learns that Emmett and Jasper Cullen have a bet on about how many humans she’ll murder during the early days of her bloodlust. Apparently they lack faith in whatever supervision program will be in place for her.

I’d always known that I would be different. I hoped that I would be as strong as Edward said I would be. Strong and fast and, most of all, beautiful. Someone who could stand next to Edward and feel like she belonged there.
I’d been trying not to think too much about the other things that I would be. Wild. Bloodthirsty. Maybe I would not be able to stop myself from killing people. Strangers, people who had never harmed me.” (344)

It really skeeves me out when Bella describes vampirification as some bizarre requirement for Edward, as a fix for her insecurity. When she’s strong and beautiful, she will “belong” next to him. Yikes. Anyway, while dressing for graduation, Bella has an epiphany about the visitor who stole her clothing (Alice was never able to see who did it) and about who is creating the army of newborn vampires: they’re the same creature.

She suspects Victoria, but this is brushed aside in favor of a long scene at Alice’s fancy graduation party. Jacob shows up (at Bella’s invitation, and with two wolf brothers). He apologizes for the kiss. Alice interrupts to give Bella and the wolves intel about the newborn army; Jacob volunteers the wolves to fight alongside the Cullens.

Bella worries more and more about Edward fighting. She asks: if the newborns are such an easy foe, why can’t he hide out with her. His options: leave his family to fight without him, or bring her to the battle. But before he can answer, she says this:

“Okay, look, Edward,” I whispered. “Here’s the thing… I’ve already gone crazy once. I know what my limits are. And I can’t stand it if you leave me again.” (419)

She’s referring to the time he left in New Moon and she engaged in stupid, risky behaviors like cliff-diving. This phrasing also carries the subtle threat of renewing their Romeo & Juliet thing.

The battle isn’t set to happen for awhile and there are a lot of pages between. (Grr.)  Bella is tired of Edward calling the shots and wants to try out sex while still human, but Edward won’t give it up until they’re hitched. He jokes that her desire will likely speed up the wedding thing and, when he shows her his mother’s ring a few minutes later, she accepts:

“Isabella Swan?” He looked up at me through his impossibly long lashes, his golden eyes soft but, somehow, still scorching. “I promise to love you forever—every single day of forever. Will you marry me?”
There were many things I wanted to say, some of them not nice at all, and others more disgustingly gooey and romantic than he probably dreamed I was capable of. Rather than embarrass myself with either, I whispered, “Yes.”
“Thank you,” he said simply. He took my left hand and kissed each of my fingertips before he kissed the ring that was now mine. (460)

Ok, back to the battle. With their trap for the newborns set, Jacob carries Bella to where Edward has set up camp in the mountains. (He picked babysitting her over fighting with his family.) Unfortunately, it’s bitter cold and Bella can’t warm herself on icy Edward, so shirtless, hot-blooded Jacob steps up and, with Edward’s permission, zips himself into Bella’s sleeping bag. The next morning, Edward talks to Bella about their engagement while Jacob is within earshot. Edward knew Jacob was listening, but Bella did not. She hears his anguished howl and crumbles, needing to comfort him before the battle.

Edward gives them privacy:

“I won’t let you claim all the blame here, Bella. Or all the glory either. I know how to redeem myself.”
“What are you talking about?” I demanded. The sudden, frenzied light in his eyes frightened me.
He glanced up at the sun and then smiled at me. “There’s a pretty serious fight brewing down there. I don’t think it will be that difficult to take myself out of the picture.” (523)

Oooookay, then. They compromise and it’s all very manipulative, especially when an old agreement comes to the surface: Edward said he wouldn’t bust up Jacob for kissing Bella, provided she asked him to. So, naturally:

“Will you kiss me, Jacob?”
His eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed suspiciously. “You’re bluffing.”
“Kiss me, Jacob. Kiss me, and then come back.”

The kiss and its analysis take four pages and THAT, kids, is how to blow a book out to 629 pages with minimal plot. At first it’s all rough and she’s not really playing along. Then he reminds her that she’ll need to do better to convince him to stay, so she kisses him for real and it’s awesome (more pages, yo).

Jacob was right. He’d been right all along. He was more than just my friend. That’s why it was so impossible to tell him goodbye—because I was in love with him. Too. I loved him, much more than I should, and yet, still nowhere near enough. I was in love with him, but it was not enough to change anything; it was only enough to hurt us both more. To hurt him worse than I ever had. (528)

Edward’s not upset. He saw the whole thing (he reads minds, remember). It doesn’t bother him, because he sees it from Jacob’s perspective, as a bit of gameplay to make up for Edward’s move with the engagement news.

Then Victoria appears. She let the newborns fall into the trap and followed Edward’s path (she knew he’d be with Bella) into the mountains. Victoria’s fight with Edward looks evenly matched to Bella, so she prepares to distract Victoria by cutting her own arm open. (Am starting to think that all the characters have themselves for their biggest threat.) Edward, seeing her about to injure herself, kicks it into high gear. Eventually, she tries to flee, but Edward gives chase:

Edward’s mouth brushed once across her neck, like a caress. The squealing clamor coming from Seth’s efforts covered ever other noise, so there was no discernible sound to make the image one of violence. He could have been kissing her.
And then the fiery tangle of hair was no longer connected to the rest of her body. The shivering orange waves fell to the ground, and bounced once before rolling toward the trees. (553)

Nice! And, if you’re like me, you’re wondering why there are still roughly 75 pages in this book with another after it. Victoria was the big bad of two books, even if she was rarely seen.

The Volturi show up and make a big deal of being impressed with the Cullens, who can’t suppress the feeling that maybe the Volturi hoped a few Cullens wouldn’t make it through. Not much is made of the fact that Bella is still human. What now? That’s the whole reason the Cullens interfered: to slow down the newborns before they could attract the Volturi, since they don’t want the Volturi around human Bella.

Jacob was wounded, but no one is super concerned. In fact, werewolves heal so quickly that some of his bones knit before they are properly set and need to be broken again. Kind of like what Bella is about to do with his heart. She visits him and thinks about having two soul mates, how Jacob would have been her happy life if the vampire wrench hadn’t been thrown in. She even tells Jacob that the worst part for her is that she can see a life with him, but that she chooses Edward. They talk about her upcoming wedding, she admits she’s not all that stoked. Then this happens:

I stretched my neck up to whisper in his ear, laying my cheek against his warm skin. “You know I love you.”
“I know,” he breathed, his arm tightening automatically around my waist. “You know how much I wish it was enough.”
“Yes.”
“I’ll always be waiting in the wings, Bella. […] You’ll always have that spare option if you want it.” (603)

Dude. And I rag on Bella for selling herself short.

The last chapter features a very happy Alice being given semi-free reign to plan the wedding. Then there’s an epilogue from Jacob’s perspective. One of the other wolves is ragging on him, his moping is a real drain on the pack-mind, and tells him to give up Bella. Also, she mentions that Bella might die since the whole vampirification process is sketch. Jacob gets ticked and runs off as a wolf, taking pleasure in shedding his human identity and woes.

And we’re through. One more to go!

Cheers!
(Because we all need a drink now.)

SBIRIFY: New Moon

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. And remember: 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 miscommunications that lead 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 of them is a vampire. The longer version (with textual support, woot), is below.

new_moon_coverNew 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 next to Edward’s teenage perfection… This dream fuels Bella’s greatest insecurity (her mortality), and drives much of the book. She is afraid of turning 18 and being officially older than Edward, who is still masquerading as a 17-year-old. 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… so I was thinking maybe I would go to Italy and do something to provoke the Vulturi.” (19)

The Vulturi enforce the secrecy of vampires. If Edward were to make himself too obvious (killing sprees, sparkling in sunlight), the Vulturi 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 are 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 for her. Edward stays with her until Dr. Cullen finds an excuse to send him away. Edward explains his disappointment in himself 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 the “we’re leaving” speech 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 she promise not to do anything reckless in his absence.

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.

As if he’d never existed? That was insanity. It was a promise that he could never keep, a promise that was broken as soon as he’d made it.
[…]
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…
I might feel better if I weren’t holding fast, all alone, to a broken pact. If I were an oath-breaker, too. But how could I cheat on my side of the deal, here in this harmless little town? (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 while he fixes the motorcycles 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. Come on, there are two books after New Moon, do you really think Edward isn’t coming back? Bella quickly 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 he 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 has had a mammoth growth-spurt and is now tall and muscled. Though he seems tormented, he cannot tell her what is happening. It’s a secret. He asks her to guess though, since he wants to tell her, but can’t do more than hint. 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?”
[…]
He let me go, but took both my hands. “I’m not a killer, Bella.” (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 had 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.

“Bella.”
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 (he doesn’t bother to clarify that the funeral is for a family friend). Alice comes back inside, clearly upset. She has seen Edward’s latest decision: he has decided to go to Italy to provoke the Vulturi 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 Vulturi 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 Vulturi are able to exert their influences over Bella: they can’t read her mind, 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 Vulturi 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 Vulturi 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:

“I thought it would be next to impossible–that you would be so sure of the truth that I would have to lie through my teeth for hours to even plant the seed of doubt in your head. I lied, and I’m so sorry–sorry because I hurt you, sorry because it was a worthless effort. Sorry that I couldn’t protect you from what I am. I lied to save you, and it didn’t work. I’m sorry.
“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…” He shook his head. “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 semi-love triangle to develop.

SBIRIFY: Twilight

So Bad, I Read It For You: Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight
As soon as I posted my first “So Bad, I Read It For You” review, I was asked to post on Twilight. Here ya go!

Remember: Full Spoilers Ahead

Twilight_book_coverI re-read Twilight to better write this. I read it years ago because it became popular so quickly across a wide age range and I was curious. I was disturbed by the book then, and I’m disturbed now. Please tell me that fans of this book can acknowledge how effed-up Bella and Edward’s relationship is. Tell me that impressionable teens don’t see this as something to emulate.

At the outset, we learn that Bella has moved from Phoenix, AZ to Forks, WA. She’s pale, with long dark hair and that’s about all we know. (The Oatmeal informs us this lack of info allows any teen girl to imagine herself as Isabella Swan and I’m inclined to agree.) Bella is moving in with her father, whom she calls Charlie. She’s seventeen and has a lot of pent-up emotions about her relocation to Forks:

It was nice to be alone, not to have to smile and look pleased; a relief to stare dejectedly out the window at the sleeting rain and let just a few tears escape. I wasn’t in the mood to go on a real crying jag. I would save that for bedtime […] (9)

She goes to high school the next day and we learn why she was so stressed about school: despite being intelligent, able to make friends instantly, and a smash hit with the male population, Bella suffers from cripplingly low self-esteem. You see, Bella is clumsy. Super clumsy. And while she will happily play the damsel-in-distress card to keep Edward around later, she hasn’t pledged her life to him yet so it’s still something to be ashamed of.

Bella spots Edward in the lunchroom on her first day. He’s sitting at a table with his adopted siblings:

I stared because their faces, so different, were all devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful. They were faces you never expected to see except perhaps on the airbrushed pages of a fashion magazine. Or painted by an old master as the face of an angel. It was hard to decide who was the most beautiful — maybe the perfect blond girl, or the bronze-haired boy. (19)

Lucky Bella gets to sit next to the hunky, bronze-haired boy in her Biology class. But he’s not keen on her:

I was watching him surreptitiously. Just as I passed, he suddenly went rigid in his seat. He stared at me again, meeting my eyes with the strangest expression on his face — it was hostile, furious. I looked away quickly, shocked, going red again. […] I’d noticed that his eyes were black — coal black. (23)

He spends the class period with clenched fists, leaning away from her as much as possible. Then he leaves school for a week. Bella spends her time thinking about him. She doesn’t “like” him of course — he seems too mean for that — but he’s under her skin. Just when she’s comfortable walking into the lunchroom and Biology, he returns. And he’s nice!

His hair was dripping wet, disheveled — even so, he looked like he’d just finished shooting a commercial for hair gel. His dazzling face was friendly, open, a slight smile on his flawless lips. But his eyes were careful.
“My name is Edward Cullen,” he continued. “I didn’t have a chance to introduce myself last week. You must be Bella Swan.”
My mind was spinning with confusion. Had I made up the whole thing? He was perfectly polite now. (43)

He needed to get a few things in order, which we will learn about later, but he’s still shady. As Bella noticed earlier, surly Edward had black eyes. Nice Edward has amber eyes. She asks him about the color-change and he straight-up denies it.

And I was suspicious of him; why should he lie about his eyes? I was still frightened of the hostility I sometimes felt emanating from him, and I was still tongue-tied whenever I pictured his perfect face. I was well aware that my league and his league were spheres that did not touch. (54)

Normal people would call these things “red flags”. He is volatile and he lies about small things. Obviously, Bella is going to cut him some slack since he’s “perfect” looking, but it should be hard for him to wriggle his way into trustworthiness. (Spoiler alert: It won’t be.) We’re treated to scenes like this:

We scowled at each other in silence. I was the first to speak, trying to keep myself focused. I was in danger of being distracted by his livid, glorious face. It was like trying to stare down a destroying angel. (65)

And:

Of course he wasn’t interested in me, I thought angrily, […] I wasn’t interesting. And he was. Interesting…and brilliant…and mysterious…and perfect…and beautiful…and possibly able to lift full-sized vans with one hand. (79)

The bit about the van is a reference to the way he saved her from getting crunched in the school parking lot. This is also something he lies about to her: he doesn’t want to be found out as supernatural. (This is actually reasonable.) But it warmed her to him a little more and it piqued his interest in her: why was he so motivated to save her? Now, they have conversations like this:

“Honestly, Edward.” I felt a thrill go through me as I said his name, and I hated it. “I can’t keep up with you. I thought you didn’t want to be my friend.”
“I said it would be better if we weren’t friends, not that I didn’t want to be.” (84)

And:

“Friends…,” he mused, dubious.
“Or not,” I muttered.
He grinned. “Well, we can try, I suppose. But I’m warning you now that I’m not a good friend for you.” Behind his smile, the warning was real.
“You say that a lot,” I noted, trying to ignore the sudden trembling in my stomach and keep my voice even.
“Yes, because you’re not listening to me. I’m still waiting for you to believe it. If you’re smart, you’ll avoid me.” (88)

In the real world, people who play these games are tiresome. The guys who smile, laugh, and mean it when they say: ‘I’m bad for you; we should stay apart; come a little closer…’ stay away from them. But Edward is different! He saves Bella again, this time from being raped. The fact that he was stalking her, hence his well-timed arrival, is glossed over. After all, it’s an unambiguously good thing that he was able to save her so we’ll overlook his creepiness for now.

They chat in the car when she’s safe and Edward confirms Bella’s suspicions that he’s really a vampire. Worried that he’ll take this to mean that their budding friendship won’t turn romantic, she quickly clarifies:

“It doesn’t matter to me what you are.”
A hard, mocking edge entered his voice. “You don’t care if I’m a monster? If I’m not human?” (184)

And she really means it:

About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him — and I didn’t know how potent that part might be — that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him. (195)

So now they’re together. They take turns quizzing the other about their life. Bella’s side of this conversation is pretty dry, but fortunately it’s only summarized for the reader (she goes so far as to “detail” her cluttered room at home). Edward has more interesting things to say. His family (the Cullens) hunt animals to slake their bloodlust, because they don’t kill humans. Edward’s initial aversion to Bella was caused by his intense attraction to her scent which is more appealing to him than that of anyone else. The week he disappeared from school allowed him to go hunting in the hope that if he weren’t thirsty, he wouldn’t find it so difficult to be around her. She is also unique in that Edward cannot hear her thoughts, which makes her particularly fascinating to him. Edward “died” when he was 17 during the 1918 Spanish Influenza. One wonders why someone so much older would hang around a high school, taking the same classes again and again in different locations:

“But the younger we pretend to be, the longer we can stay in any given place. Forks seemed perfect, so we all enrolled in high school.” He laughed. (289)

This would make sense if he and his siblings blended into the student body in any way. But they don’t; they eat alone at lunch and appear to have special dispensation from the staff to come and go as they please. Plus, have you seen how most students radically change between their freshman and senior years? Why would vampires expose themselves to a gossipy population of students and teachers who can’t help but notice that they barely eat and seem to have taken all the courses before? I don’t understand the school aspect of this book. It might make a more compelling story if Edward were relegated to an extracurricular activity.

Most of the pseudo-romantic moments between Bella and Edward come after Edward has swooped in to save her from being hit by cars, tripping, or being raped. Edward can’t leave her because it’s too hazardous for him to do so. They have this conversation:

“No one has tried to do away with me today,” I reminded him, grateful for the lighter subject. I didn’t want him to talk about goodbyes anymore. If I had to, I supposed I could purposefully put myself in danger to keep him close….I banished that thought before his quick eyes read it on my face. That idea would definitely get me in trouble.
“Yet,” he added.
“Yet,” I agreed; I would have argued, but now I wanted him to be expecting disasters. (211)

Wowza. Now she actually wants to be seen as a damsel-in-distress. She wants him to be “expecting disasters”. If she’s ever seen as strong and independent enough to stand on her own…well, that’s bad because he might have less incentive to stay. When you couple this with her self-esteem issues, and her growing tendency to define herself by her relationship with Edward — this mindset is troubling and unhealthy.

Besides, since I’d come to Forks, it really seemed like my life was about him. […] But a tiny voice in the back of my mind worried, wondering if it would hurt very much…if it ended badly.
I was relieved when it was late enough to be acceptable for bedtime. I knew I was far too stressed to sleep, so I did something I’d never done before. I deliberately took unnecessary cold medicine — the kind that knocked me out for a good eight hours. (251)

Minor substance abuse is a healthy, productive way to cope with stress. I’m thankful that 17-year old Bella was savvy enough to figure this out. Clearly, she should spend more time with the person/creature who inspires such anxiety. </sarcasm>

In case you haven’t cracked it yet, this isn’t your typical vampire story. If Edward could only come out at night, that might diminish the time he spent following Bella around. The Cullens live in rainy Forks because the sunlight makes them conspicuous:

Edward in the sunlight was shocking. I couldn’t get used to it, though I’d been staring at him all afternoon. His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday’s hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare. (260)

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More relationship building:

He lifted his glorious, agonized eyes to mine. “You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever.”
[…]
“You already know I feel, of course,” I finally said. “I’m here…which, roughly translated, means I would rather die than stay away from you.” I frowned. “I’m an idiot.”
“You are an idiot,” he agreed with a laugh. Our eyes met, and I laughed, too. We laughed together at the idiocy and sheer impossibility of such a moment.
“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…,” he murmured. I looked away, hiding my eyes as I thrilled to the word.
“What a stupid lamb,” I sighed.
“What a sick, masochistic lion.” (274)

On why it’s easier for her, that she didn’t have to wait decades and decades to find true love:

“You only have to risk your life every second you spend with me, that’s surely not much. You only have to turn your back on nature, on humanity…what’s that worth?”
“Very little — I don’t feel deprived of anything.”
“Not yet.” And his voice was abruptly full of ancient grief. (305)

Edward should be stepping up here — he sees the way she’s completely romanticized the whole vampire thang and he’s not smacking it down or trying to convey a more realistic view. He asks her to stay away from him (when she’s seventeen and smitten!) so everyone knows that ain’t gonna happen. He pulls her in, acting like some long-suffering victim that only she can fix.

Further, there are more subtle dangers to chilling with vampires than the obvious risk of blood loss. Edward explains:

“If I was too hasty…if for one second I wasn’t paying enough attention, I could reach out, meaning to touch your face, and crush your skull by mistake” (310)

Being smart, Bella knows that they could be together no problem if she was a vampire too, so she sets out to learn how she can make this happen. This next quotation is excruciating:

“I know love and lust don’t always keep the same company.”
“They do for me. Now, anyway, that they exist for me at all,” I sighed.
“That’s nice. We have that one thing in common, at least.” He sounded satisfied. (311)

Their mutual attraction is built on their senses (Bella’s smell, Edward’s looks) and novelty (Bella’s mind isn’t an open book, Edward is hot and interested) — But it’s impossible for it to be base lust (according to them). Lust can be a lot of fun, but when you’re talking about dying so you can spend Forever with someone, you want to stop and make sure you’ve got something lasting. When I read Dante’s Inferno in college, someone complained that the lustful aren’t being punished enough as they’re with their lover in the cyclone. My brilliant professor answered: ‘The next time you wake up after a lust-fueled fling, think about spending an eternity with that person.’ Everyone (including the professor) shuddered.

You may have noticed that this lengthy summary has been about their relationship and had little to say about plot. Well, that’s because there is no plot for the first 70% of the book. It’s Bella and Edward’s slow, downward spiral. Their first glances, first touches, first kisses… Bella’s delightfully conflicted reaction to learning that Edward spends his sleepless nights watching her sleep… these things make up the entire book.

Then one day, Bella is hanging with her new family of vampires when a small group of three vampires happens upon them. These vampires don’t abstain from killing people and when one (James) learns that Bella is off-limits… well, he just has to have her all the more. The Cullens rally around Bella to protect her and this part is actually a bit intense and delightfully unpredictable. It seems like Bella might actually get bitten by James and saved by Edward at the right time for her to become a vampire… after all, the book is written to make it seem like that’s a good thing. So, why not?

James tricks Bella into thinking he’s got her mother as a hostage. She gives her protectors the slip and meets him alone. James breaks her leg and throws her into the glass mirror of her old ballet studio. As she lies there, bleeding, she begins to fade away but can hear the Cullens break into the room to save her. There’s a fight that happens through the veil of her muddled senses until she begins screaming that there’s a fire in her hand. James bit her, and now vampiric venom is coursing into her body. It takes three days-ish for the venom, unchecked, to transform the individual into a vampire. That’s the trick: it seems that if the vampire sucks the victim dry, the person dies. If the vampire leaves the victim partially alive, resisting the urge drain them, they’re transformed (and beautified, apparently).

The only way Edward can save Bella is by sucking the venom out through her wound, tasting her blood in the process. Of course, because he loves her, he is able to stop at the appropriate time and she is taken to the hospital. When she’s healed up, Edward takes her (and her cast) to prom. His sister gets Bella all dolled up and Bella is a bit crushed to find herself at a dance instead of the secret place she thought Edward might take her so he could bite her. There’s some set-up at the dance with Jacob (a future werewolf) for the sequel, even though he was a pretty minor character (friend from Bella’s childhood) in this one. But really, he won’t be relevant to the plot until he grows up a bit more and rips his shirt off. Again, see book 2.

Edward, in a fit of selflessness (and self-pity), says:

“I don’t want my presence to take anything away from you, if I can help it. I want you to be human. I want your life to continue as it would have if I’d died in nineteen-eighteen like I should have.” (495)

She objects and he pretends like he’s going to transform her, but doesn’t. He believes she can’t really want it for herself since she doesn’t know what it means. Well done, Edward! But Bella still doesn’t get it:

“A girl can dream.”
His eyebrows rose. “Is that what you dream about? Being a monster?”
“Not exactly,” I said, frowning at his word choice. Monster, indeed. “Mostly I dream about being with you forever.” (498)

I want to shake her and say: “Look, you nit, since he’s a vampire you’re not talking about a cheap ring and Vegas quickie– you’d have to die. And then if/when you wanted to split, you’d have to contend with the fact that you’d given up your life, your family, everything recognizable, for a nomadic, unending existence. So, maybe you should know the guy more than nine months first?”

On the other hand…if she gets too old before he bites her, they could get stuck in a configuration that makes her look like a cougar. This appears to be Bella’s main concern. Fun times.

Ok, that’s it. Really, that’s the whole book.