Thursday, November 15, 2012
Book Review: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Release Date: August 2, 2008
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Can true love be forgotten?
WHEN YOU LOVED THE ONE WHO WAS KILLING YOU, IT LEFT YOU NO OPTIONS. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you had to give, how could you not give it? If it was someone you truly loved?
To be irrevocably in love with a vampire is both fantasy and nightmare woven into a dangerously heightened reality for Bella Swan. Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to a werewolf Jacob Black, she has endured a tumultuous year of temptation, loss, and strife to reach the ultimate turning point. her imminent choice to either join the dark but seductive world of immortals or pursue a fully human life has become the thread from which the fate of two tribes hangs.
Now that Bella has made her decision, a startling chain of unprecedented events is about to unfold with potentially devastating and unfathomable consequences. Just when the frayed strands of Bella's life - first discovered in Twilight, then scattered and torn in New Moon and Eclipse - seem ready to heal and knit together, could they be destroyed...forever?(courtesy of Goodreads)
*This review is more a reflection than a typical review. I'm assuming you've read the book and as such, it is full of spoilers.
Since Breaking Dawn 2 is out in two days, I thought it fitting to re-read the book. I first read all four Twilight books in a mad dash in October 2008 and re-read them all as soon as I finished. Since then, I have re-read the other three books numerous times, but I have never re-read Breaking Dawn in its entirety. Bits and pieces quite often, but not the whole thing.
I thought Breaking Dawn was pretty good but unsatisfactory the first time I read it. Stephenie took the plot in directions I did not want it to go and I resented it. Over time, I've come to appreciate and almost love the book for what it is. But this review is definitely different and, in many ways, more skeptical than my review would have been four years ago.
The highlights of the book for me have always been the same: (1) Bella's transition and first moments as a vampire; (2) the new vampires; (3) Jacob's point of view.
The vampire mythology that Stephenie created is one of the most fascinating parts of the series. More intriguing to me than Edward and Bella's romance, actually. Breaking Dawn gives us priceless material about the process of transforming into a vampire as well as a window into the sight, smells, sounds, touches, and tastes of a vampire.
On a similar vein, I loved meeting all the new vampires. Not only do we see "traditional" vampires aside from the Volturi, we get a slew of different talents and personalities. Garrett is by far my favorite. I loved his passion, his daring, and his childlike enthusiasm for adventure. Right behind him is Alistair, the terrified, pessimistic vampire hermit. And Stefan and Vladimir, better known as Dracula 1 and Dracula 2.
I've been Team Edward since day one, but I loved seeing Jacob's perspective. His humor is a pleasant change from angsty Bella and his non-worshipful view of the Cullens helped me understand their characters better. Even though, the Wolves don't interest me as much, the pack dynamics and drama was fascinating. It makes the series feel fresh. Best of all was that Jacob is not Bella. After reading his point of view, I realize how limited a picture Bella presents us, with her pro-Cullen bias (even though I share that bias) and her non-paranormal eyesight. Jacob's view is also limited, but by having both perspectives in Breaking Dawn, the story is much richer.
As for the plot, I've come to accept it. If I had written the book, I would have left Renesmee out entirely and/or included a huge blow out fight at the end. But I recognize that Renesmee drives the plot and also allows the Cullens to fill a hole in their lives. As for the ending, while I was reading it, there was plenty of drama and a conclusion that felt logical. It's only when I step back from it that I wish there was something more. I go both ways on the ending. An action packed fight scene would have been a lot of fun, but I also wouldn't want to see any of the Cullens die.
Despite being a huge Edward fan, I spent the first half of Breaking Dawn wanting to slap him, just as I did through much of New Moon and Eclipse. He's annoyingly overprotective, way overdramatic, and far too pessimistic. But he definitely grows in this book, into a person that I respect much more. Bella too gets on my nerves. She's stubborn, angsty, has typical teenage low self-esteem and is unreasonably dismissive of her own safety (call me unromantic, but sex as a human with a vampire seems far too dangerous). Despite their many flaws, I easily recognize the innate goodness of Bella and Edward and all the characters.
As always, the Cullens are the most interesting characters. Breaking Dawn gives us more insight into their personalities. Carlisle's curiosity. Esme's kindness. Rosalie's dogged loyalty. Emmett's humor. Alice's tenacity. Jasper's emotional range. But there's still so much we're missing! I hate that we didn't learn more about Alice and Jasper's trip to South America. I wish I understood better exactly how Rosalie's opinion towards Bella has changed. The list goes on. I can't entirely fault Stephenie for not including it. The book was long enough already and too much focus on the side characters would distract the plot.
Breaking Dawn is over 750 pages, but it never drags. If anything, it's the opposite. There are so many different elements to the story that it switches from one thing to another almost too quickly. It's choppy. Stephenie's writing ability is much improved in Breaking Dawn from Twilight (and I assume a much better editing job). It's not going to win any awards for literary quality, but what's important is that the writing does not get in the way of the story as it does in the earlier books. The only major complaint I have about the writing is the romance scenes. I didn't feel the passion. It's not that I'm looking for more description of them having sex or kissing or doing whatever. I just wish it had been described differently. I miss the butterflies and excited shivers that I felt in Twilight.
Breaking Dawn is a fitting conclusion to the Twilight series. It brings the characters and the story full circle. The writing, while imperfect, is better and the story certainly reads fast. It remains my least favorite book in the series, but I will always treasure it for the critical elements it brings to Stephenie's vampire world and my happiness at seeing all the characters I love happy and fulfilled.