- The Good: Vampire romance!
- The Bad: Lacking in character and story development
- The Literary: POV from a telepathic protagonist
In the wildly popular Twilight (2005), clumsy teen Bella Swan moves to a new town in the Pacific Northwest and immediately falls in love with her beautiful brooding vampire classmate Edward Cullen. Experience their love story all over again through Edward’s perspective as he wrestles with his thirst, his heart, and what he will sacrifice to keep her safe.
The most interesting aspect of Midnight Sun is the move away from Bella’s perspective. But it’s not just Edward’s POV, which would be enough, but everyone else too, because Edward is telepathic and can hear the thoughts of everyone around him, including his adopted sister, Alice, who sees visions of the future. It’s a wonderfully convenient literary device that gives more weight to this retelling.
For example, when Bella is sitting uncomfortably in biology class next to the pretty boy who seems to hate her (and the way she smells), Edward is planning in detail how he will slaughter all the innocent children in the classroom just so he can savor her blood. But he storms out and, after cooling off in Alaska for a few days, begins to see Bella more as an intellectual mystery—she’s the only person he’s ever encountered whose mind his shielded from him—before falling in love with her.
As you might imagine, Edward is a tormented soul, and his voice reflects the guilt of his species and the potential future of ending the precious human life known as Bella, whether by drinking her blood or by transforming her into a vampire. His thoughts often revolve around the tale of Persephone and the underworld, which is the inspiration for the pomegranate on the book cover.
Just like in the original book, the plot kicks two-thirds of the way in, during the thunderstorm baseball scene, when some new vampires show up and decide they want to eat Bella. But since the plot isn’t the reason you read this series, it remains forgettable, despite new sequences in which the vampires must stage a crime scene while Bella is comatose.
I’d like to take a moment to defend the series as a silly teen fantasy romance that is so highly critiqued. Twilight is not meant to be literary. It is perfectly passable, marketable, emotion-driven fiction. Maybe it’s not as quality as some emotional stories out there (see John Green), but it’s not any worse than perfectly passable marketable fiction (see Dan Brown), and certainly better than the popular fanfic it’s inspired (see E. L. James).
That said, I’m not a Twilight apologist. There are a lot of less-than-ideal relationship goals between Edward and Bella. In Midnight Sun, Edward envisions all the terrible things that can befall Bella and uses these imaginings as an excuse to stalk her, climb into her bedroom at night, and watch her sleep. At school, he listens intently to everyone around her throughout the day so he knows exactly what she is doing at all times. If you let your children read these, you should have a serious discussion with then to bring nuance to this cheesy vampire teen romance.
Please also take a few moments to read about the real Quileute tribe (quileutenation.org) and consider supporting their efforts to preserve their heritage with the Move to Higher Ground initiative (mthg.org).
If you’re a fan of the original Twilight series, there is no reason why you won’t enjoy this return to the franchise!