A Good Day to Twi-Hard
In ‘Midnight Sun,’ Edward Cullen is a weirdo stalker and the werewolves are still savage, but Twilight fans won’t care
It turns out Edward was a bro before he met Bella, and an anxious mess after.
Midnight Sun, the long-teased version of the first Twilight book from teenage vampire Edward’s perspective, rose at midnight Aug. 4. Author Stephenie Meyer first began drafting the book more than 13 years ago, but stopped after portions leaked online.
In May, as COVID-19 shutdowns extended, Meyer announced Midnight Sun was on its way at last. “I don’t know how everyone else is coping, but right now books are my main solace and happiest escape,” she wrote in a blog post.
Working on the book for so long was a strange experience, she added. “I’m not the same person I was then.”
Neither are we, and that’s part of the problem. Nostalgia only goes so far.
The culture has changed, too. What felt like a swoony supernatural love in 2005 that spawned a surge of grownups reading young-adult literature and five movies now reads as creepy. Stalker-y. He’s lurking around her house. Watching her while she sleeps. (Dooming her to eternal bloodthirst. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)
If you’re a Twilight fan, you pretty much know what’s going to happen. What’s new is seeing how Edward and the entire Cullen vampire family react to Bella. There’s more backstory on the Cullens’ origins, including Edward’s. If you loved the original books, it’s interesting, up to a point. But after years of critics noting how the story arc of the series mirrors an abusive relationship, some of Edward’s reactions in the new book alarm rather than entice.
At first, Edward’s way too big for his vampire britches. His haughty inner monologue is maddening. On Bella’s arrival in Forks as the new girl at school: “The excitement over her arrival was tiresomely predictable — it was the same reaction as one would get from flashing a shiny object at a group of toddlers.”
Bella intrigues Edward, however, as one of the few humans whose thoughts he can’t instantly read. More troubling, her scent is irresistible. “I was a predator. She was my prey … I was a vampire, and she had the sweetest blood I’d smelled in more than eighty years.” Edward! Do you hear yourself?
Meyer realizes this, apparently. The boy vampire chastises himself as he watches over a slumbering Bella. “I was repulsed by myself as I watched her toss again. How was I better than some sick peeping Tom? I wasn’t any better. I was much, much worse.”
Nevertheless, he persisted.
Seeing how he and his makeshift vampire family communicate is diverting. Early on, prognosticator Alice notes the two are destined for each other, and that she and Bella will be close friends. She tells Edward of her vision of Bella with vampire-red eyes. All are meaningful bits if you’ve read the original or even watched the movies. But the stalker-y vibes extend during scenes at their school, when Edward reads the thoughts of Bella’s friends to ensure they haven’t figured out his secret.
Alas, Edward’s less-than-savory dynamic isn’t the only issue bedeviling Midnight Sun.
Some critics also fault the original series for its portrayal of the werewolf clan. Meyers casts Jacob Black and his werewolf relatives as members of the (real) Quileute tribe. As the storyline progresses over the course of the books, Meyers positions Jacob and family as shirtless and savage, compared with the Cullen aesthetes, some complain. Twitter supporters of the tribe urged fans to mark this novel’s publication by donating to the Quileute Tribe’s Move to Higher Ground project.
Still, Twi-hards are Twi-hards. And in a distinctly 2020 hiccup, many took to Twitter as publication day wore on to complain that pre-ordered copies of Midnight Sun–which typically arrive on the same date a title publishes–hadn’t yet dropped on doorsteps because of delivery challenges and hurricane delays. “I’ve already waited 10 years please don’t make me wait longer,” lamented one tweet.
(Little, Brown, Aug. 4, 2020)