Review: Midnight Sun

Photo by Nicole Rees-Williams.

by Kate Waldock

I am a Twilight fan. I mean like, next-level Twilight fan. I have all the books, I read the spin-offs and I had a huge Breaking Dawn poster that took up way too much space on my wall. At 12 years old, I’d ask my mum to get me magazines if they had Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson strewn across the front pages. I bought the ten-year anniversary version of Twilight (Life and Death for anyone that’s interested) where she switched the characters’ genders. Only true fans know that early chapters of Midnight Sun were leaked online. I read it in about three days. Basically, I like Twilight. 

So, when Stephenie Meyer announced that she would be officially releasing the entire story, retold from Edward’s point of view, I was pretty excited. Meyer received a lot of criticism as the Twilight Saga soared into the mainstream, taking over every teenager’s lives. Magazines and newspapers branded the books and subsequent films as sexist; a portrayal of a teenage girl who can only be saved by a boy. Her life revolves around Edward; she lives and dies for him- and her life lost any choices but to go where he does as she fell madly in love with him. Meyer was dogged by this criticism, to which she often argued that the story line wasn’t a question of gender but of all-encompassing love. Midnight Sun does feel like another attempt to solve that, a way of proving to the mothers of teenage daughters that this saga wasn’t just another reinforcement of gender norms. 

But enough of the critic’s point of view, let’s get to the book. Cullen’s perspective shows that Bella’s adoration of him was not one-sided. We have the chance of looking into Edward’s mind; the one mind we never had the privilege of listening to in Bella’s narration. It is probably the main appeal to this book’s release for fans of the franchise. Those former teenage girls finally get to find out just what was going on inside the elusive vampire heartthrob’s head. Meyer sticks to Edward’s classic personality throughout the book- his inner turmoil is consistently present. His self-hatred stretches throughout pages as he navigates high school life for the hundred and fourth time. It is a task; trying to create a character who has lived so many more lives than most humans could possibly imagine. Meyer uses this opportunity to document the lives of Edward’s complicated family from a narrator who wasn’t at almost constant risk of being sucked dry. For diehard fans of Twilight, the book is a clarification of those side characters that were inaccessible to Bella. She takes the opportunity to fill out the world she created fifteen years ago. However, this is the main attraction of the book. Without any prior adoration for the series, a newcomer would probably lose interest before they even got halfway through.

The difficulty with retelling a worldwide famous story is that you are bound by those constraints as you embark on the new perspective. Meyer rigidly stuck to those guidelines; the book certainly fuelled the fantasy, a new look-in to a world where vegetarian vampires and incredibly muscly werewolves fight over the love of one normal albeit awkward girl. But the truth is, it just wasn’t as good as the original books. From Bella’s narration, we see the guy every young Twilight fan fantasized about; brooding, mysterious, powerful but completely in love with a normal teenager. From Edward’s narration, the cover is peeled back from that closed book, and we see a relatively whiny existence, whose life comes to revolve around a desperate desire to be around someone who he just really would like to kill. He just becomes that classic grumpy teenager with a slightly creepy obsession for the ‘girl next door’ stereotype (although I suppose watching someone sleep without their knowledge is more than slightly creepy). The original books were written in such a way that readers could place themselves in Bella’s shoes- she became the representation of the girls that read her. Bella never could understand how the living (or undead) embodiment of perfection fell in love with her. But Edward’s narration of the story fails to fully explain it. He just seems to adore how completely normal she is.

So perhaps, rather than pick up the new book if you are not one of those Twilight obsessives, go and get the old books off the bookshelves and dust those off for a read. But to be honest, if you loved the series, then it is so exciting to fall back into that world. I heard Stephanie Meyer will be releasing two more Twilight books, and I for one, will definitely be getting them, no matter how dragged out the franchise.