The Story: [from GoodReads]
For Bella Swan, there is one thing more important than life itself: Edward Cullen. But being in love with a vampire is even more dangerous than Bella could ever have imagined. Edward has already rescued Bella from the clutches of one evil vampire, but now, as their daring relationship threatens all that is near and dear to them, they realize their troubles may be just beginning.
My Take: While this second novel in the widely-popular Twilight saga has a little more here to hold my interest as opposed to its predecessor, some of the same issues I had with Twilight abound here.
First the good stuff. The biggest draw for me in New Moon was the inclusion of Jacob Black as a major character. (Granted, he is introduced in Twilight but he is more of a background figure in that book.) In some ways, I like Jacob more than Edward: Jacob seems to have more personality, which makes him less one-dimensional, and he is an overall good guy. At the same time, Jacob contends with being a monster himself (as he and his family are werewolves, though not in the traditional sense). Unlike Edward, Jacob doesn’t seem to wear this whole “I’m-a-monster” image like a badge; in contrast, Jacob seems more keen in protecting it and determined to keep Bella out of the middle of it. In fact, Jacob’s presence and development actually deserve a star in and of themselves as his character, for me, redeems a rather mediocre read.
Aside from Jacob’s personality, the other reason why I viewed him as the book’s saving grace was the sympathy Jacob generates. Make no mistake: Bella treats Jacob horribly (in my opinion). To her, he is nothing more than a fill-in friend when Edward and his family leave Forks. In Edward’s absence, Bella strikes up a friendship with Jacob, but it’s more in the interest of giving herself something to do. Jacob befriends her, too, but I felt bad for him in that he either doesn’t see how Bella uses him as a foil or else doesn’t want to be a jerk and call her out for it (which actually would be the right thing to do).
As I stated in my review for Twilight, one of Bella’s infuriating traits for me is her immaturity, which is mingled with a certain callousness as far as her relationship with Jacob goes. Bella uses him as a means of distraction more so than viewing him as a genuine friend. Case in point: as soon as Alice appears and fills Bella in on Edward’s doings, Bella forgets about Jacob and takes off after her vampire love interest. This also elicits character sympathy for Jacob as he’s just too nice to be treated this way but he’s also seemingly too nice to call out Bella’s cattiness. Again, this might be purposely intended to portray Bella as an immature, indecisive teen, but it earns her no applause from me.
It kind of reminds me of the Britney Spears song “Oops! I Did it Again” where the female speaker tells her man that “I made you believe we’re more than just friends” and admits she’s “not that innocent” as she really did intend to play with his heart.
(I actually move for this to be Bella’s theme song – not to mention it has the word “oops” in it, which is a clumsy gal’s favorite word!)
Aside from Jacob’s inclusion, there really isn’t much here that I didn’t already touch on in my review for Twilight, so I’ll try not to repeat myself. Once more, the setting is well-crafted and I appreciate the fact that a large portion of the action in both books occurs outside (in nature) as opposed to staying confined to urban settings.
But once more, the same issues abound here as far as plot and characters go. Much like with Twilight, New Moon doesn’t have a central goal for its characters; instead, it presents a series of connected events. In brief, Edward and his family leave after an averted accident (involving Bella, no less), which throws Bella into an emotional black hole. I understand the hollowness she feels, and I think so can anyone who has ever broken up with someone they cared about or saw that person move on with his life. But only for a time. Bella, on the other hand, wallows in it, and so much of the novel is drenched in an angst-riddled, brooding tone that it eventually wore on my nerves. I, much like Bella’s father, wanted to yell at her to wake up and get a life.
Much of the book’s midsection spends its time exploring the Bella-Jacob dynamic, which is fun and is where some of the more interesting character development occurs. Then the final portions of the novel steer Bella right back into the arms of her “lost” love and delve into a slice of vampire politics. I will admit that I liked the inclusion of the Volturi and I wished more time had been spent on their backstories, especially of the sadistic Jane.
But this is when the novel starts to feel disjointed, at least it did so to me. Until now, both books in the Twilight series had an organic charm to their principle settings. Yet to have the story abruptly switch and thrust readers into the sun-drenched Italian landscape was a bit jarring. Granted, I take no issue with changing venues provided it moves the story along. But these scenes and the confrontation with the Volturi were overdrawn and inconclusive.
Which brings me to another issue I have with these books as the series progresses – there is never any real danger to any of the main characters. Take New Moon, for instance: the Volturi are supposedly the vampire ruling class but all they do to Edward and Bella is issue a warning that Bella has to become a vampire since she’s now aware of their existence, but they give her a rather extended time to do so.
That…that’s it? Why not press Edward and force him to turn Bella on the spot or else? The Volturi clearly have the power to do so. Why were they so nice and, essentially, let Edward and Bella off the proverbial hook? The novel’s climax sets up a potentially deadly conflict that eventually just fizzles out, at least it did so for me.
And, of course, there’s Bella, who possesses the same undesirable traits here as she did in the previous book. But what becomes most troublesome for me in New Moon is her near-fanaticism with Edward, so much so that she willing endangers her life just because she can hear Edward’s voice in her head whenever she does something dangerous (or stupid). Don’t get me wrong – I’m the furthest thing from a ranting feminist as a skunk is from a perfume factory. But it bothers me to see a teen girl so wrapped up in a boy that she is willing to do anything to be with him in some fashion. As certainly unintended as these books probably are, they can, at times, give the wrong impression about healthy relationships. While it’s normal to pine over someone who has left you, it’s not healthy to stay perpetually in an emotional hole. While it’s normal to want to be in love, it’s unhealthy to obsess over a person. And while it’s normal to give and take in a relationship, it most certainly is not normal or healthy to do things that go against plain ol’ common sense.
Likewise, Bella’s immaturity reaches new heights (or would that be a new low) in this novel. She tells Edward, point-blank, that she doesn’t care about her immortal soul and wants to be a vampire. In yet another scene, Bella is actually happy to see Laurent, a dubious vampire character from the first book, because she is so desperate to be around Edward’s own kind. And later, Bella practically begs Alice, Edward’s sister, to bite her (on an airplane no less!) and turn her into a vampire.
My response to all of these scenarios?
Because Bella’s lack of personal concern, common sense, and executive decision-making abilities border on turning her into a character who is TSTL (too stupid to live), if you ask me, which makes her an infuriating protagonist. Perhaps as a secondary lead or as a minor character, these massive lapses in judgment might be forgivable, comedic even. But for the leading lady to act this careless and callous towards herself and others causes me to harbor a strong dislike for Bella as a character.
Language – Essentially none, other than a few sporadically scattered PG words
Violence – None, but there are some tense moments and scenes of peril as well as the usual vampire blood-consumption references, but there is nothing graphically depicted. Bella gets into a few scrapes and, as noted, sometimes engages in risky or potentially dangerous behavior just to try to telepathically connect with Edward. While these moments are more suspenseful than openly violent, they may imply (at least to younger readers) that doing risky activities is okay because they might connect you with the ones you love.
Sexual Content – None. There are a few moments of modest kissing and flirting between characters but nothing even remotely sexual occurs. Once more, my concern for younger readers is the possible takeaway message that it’s desirable to want the “bad boy” even if he abandons you or leaves you emotionally crushed. Not to mention that it’s also okay to treat a decent guy like dirt when you really want to have the “bad boy.” Again, this is of no real concern to adult readers, but because of this I would recommend this novel for the over-15/16 crowd.
Overall, New Moon‘s one redeeming value is the character of Jacob Black. But other than his presence and development, the novel falls into the same rut that caused Twilight to become an okay read for me. For readers who devoured the first book, New Moon will probably delight. But if you were turned off by the sluggish plot or occasionally infuriating lead characters, then New Moon won’t really offer anything new.