Saturday, September 12, 2020

Review: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer


Title: Midnight Sun
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Release date: August 4th 2020
Pages: 662
Genre: Young Adult paranormal romance
Source: Purchased
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When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun. This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

This book feels like it should be in a category of its own; any rating would be justified because I absolutely loved and despised this book at the same time. For nostalgia and making my inner 12-year-old happy, this book gets 5 stars; for everything else, probably more like 2 stars. I pretty much hated every second of this book, but hating it made me so happy, and I wouldn't have wanted this book to be any other way.

Being in Edward's head is, in a word, terrible. He is one of the most annoying characters I've ever met. If you thought that Bella's falling in love with a boy she barely knew was bad, she actually seems much more reasonable after reading Midnight Sun because Edward is so much worse. His obsession with Bella is a lot to handle, even though I do think the book does a good job of explaining how the allure of her scent and his inability to read her thoughts create this mysterious appeal. His constant whining and self-hatred are simultaneously annoying and reasonable, since he, ya know, is a monster. Edward appears entirely incompetent and as if he would be completely useless if he wasn't able to read other people's thoughts, and especially watching him learn to understand physical attraction as a confusing and new sensation despite being 104 years old is simultaneously the most annoying and funniest thing about this book. This book did not make me like him whatsoever, but it was extremely fun to despise him while reading.

The ending of this book was so terrible to read from his perspective. It's not surprising, since we know what happens in New Moon, but it was so sad to read the ending of the first book that was so happy in the original but knowing that Edward is planning on leaving. Before reading this book, I was hoping Stephenie Meyer would rewrite the whole series from his perspective, but after reading that ending, I fully understand why she doesn't want to write New Moon from Edward's perspective, and I honestly don't know if I could handle reading it. If you're going to read this book, prepare to be emotionally gutted by the ending.

My favorite thing about this book was finding out more about the vampire world and the things Bella didn't get to see. The more detailed explanation of Alice's vision and Jasper's skills, specifically, were super cool. I loved seeing how the whole family interacted with each other, and how they have thought-conversations with Edward. Everything between the baseball scene and the terrible ending was super fun to read, and I was on the edge of my seat with suspense despite obviously knowing the outcome. Seeing what the Cullens' attempts to protect Bella looked like that we didn't get to see, since Bella wasn't with Edward for most of that, was super cool, and I especially loved seeing the way they worked together and used their individual abilities to make that happen. I wish we had gotten even more insights into the vampire world and their family dynamics!

I was expecting Stephenie Meyer to maybe have updated some elements of the story after all the critiques she's gotten, but... Midnight Sun is just as problematic as Twilight. The appropriation of Indigenous culture is just as bad in this version, and Edward's stalker-like and controlling behavior, his denigration of teenage girls other than Bella, and the generally outdated ideas of gender roles and relationships are even worse than they were in Twilight. In a way, that was frustrating to read again, but, in hindsight, anything else wouldn't have felt authentic, and since the target audience for this book is presumably older (since I'm assuming it consists mainly of those of us who loved Twilight as tweens and teens), I'm hoping this at least leads to some reflection and allows us to think about how and why we idealized these books when we were younger.

This book was terrible for all the same reasons Twilight is bad, and those are the same reasons that I wholeheartedly love this franchise. I think this book is required reading for anyone who loved the series when they were younger; the nostalgia alone makes it worth it, and even the parts I hated I loved to hate.

Whether you love or hate or love-hate Twilight, lease consider donating to the Quileute Tribe whose culture Stephenie Meyer appropriated! They have not received any compensation for this widely successful franchise that was built on their culture and legends. Their land is at sea level and some of the tribe's homes have been destroyed by flooding, as well as being located in a tsunami zone, so they are collecting donations in order to move to higher ground. I donated the same amount of money that I spent on this book to somehow compensate for participating in the appropriation of their culture, and I would encourage you to do the same! You can find out more and donate at https://mthg.org.

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