THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.
As I said in my review of Breaking Dawn – Part I ,I’m doing something a little different here–due to the nature of Breaking Dawn and the issues I had with it, I’m putting up a two part review. Part I is SPOILER FREE, whereas Part II (this post) will be more of an in depth discussion with SPOILERS. Holly of The Book Binge also has a twofer spoiler free review and spoiler filled review for you to check out!
If you have read Breaking Dawn and wish to discuss it (I certainly do!), please leave any comments after this post.
Review and Discussion:
So, from my earlier spoiler-free post, I mentioned the main reasons why I was not happy with Breaking Dawn:
- Melodramatic plot
- Poor characterizations (and no real character growth)
- The “Message” to younger readers
In that spirit, here we go…
1. The Characters
“Who cares about Derek Zoolander anyway? The man has only one look, for Christ’s sake! Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? They’re the same face! Doesn’t anybody notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” ~ Mugatu, Zoolander
About 1/4 into this book, I was already starting to have some serious doubts. I think the beginning was solid–Bella’s anxiousness over the wedding, her self-doubts, her concern for Jacob all felt very in-tune with the earlier books. Even through the wedding itself, I was nodding along, excited to see where the newlyweds would be heading, both for their honeymoon, and in terms of plot direction.
When they got to Esmee’s romantic island and Bella turned into seductress extraordinaire, however, things started to look iffy. Bella, the girl so shy she blushed at the sight of lacy underwear all of a sudden is so carried away by her hormones that she nonchalantly entices Edward by begging for more sex in return for her staying human for a year or two longer and maybe going to a semester of university? What?! I’ll admit here that the whole “bargaining” idea (from Eclipse and carried through to fruition here) to become a vampire–trading marriage so she can have human sex and then become immortal–has never sat well with me, but Bella’s actions in this book and her cavalier attitude towards her life–her education, her family, her humanity (AT 18 NO LESS!)–leaves even more of a bitter aftertaste.
But that’s merely the beginning.
Bella the Seductress is incredibly effective. So effective, that two weeks into their little honeymoon, Bella misses a period, and feels a kick in her womb. Yep–Bella’s knocked up, with a super vampire baby that is growing at an exponential rate. So far as any of them know, there is no precedent. Vampires aren’t supposed to be able to have babies. So, Edward is freaking out, yanking them both on the next plane home.
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**NOTE: Did I mention that earlier in the book–out of nowhere–there is a mention of “Immortal Children” and the incredible threat they posed to humanity? Bella is reminiscing, and recalls when Edward told her about these beautiful little children turned into vampires, but were so incredibly dangerous because they had no way to control their hunger. I suppose I should have seen “BABY STORYLINE!” in flashing lights from that first mention.**
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How does Bella react to being pregnant? Why–by completely embracing her shotgun pregnancy, calling Rosalie and telling her to protect her baby at all costs, of course!
Wait a minute. What?
This from Bella who was scared to get married because of the finality of the whole thing? At 18 years old, no less!?!?!?!
Something stinks in the state of Forks.
If that’s not all, Bella continues with her determination to have her beloved 1/2 vampire 1/2 human baby, even when it starts to kill her. When she finally does give birth, she dies in the process and is transformed into a vampire. But not just any vampire–Bella becomes a beautiful, perfect, self-confident, non-clumsy vampire. But that’s not all! She’s also a vampire that has the power of SELF-CONTROL (i.e. she is not possessed with uncontrollable bloodlust). The difference is that Bella transforms from shy, uncertain 18 year old girl to Immortal, Infallible Mature Goddess Vampire Mother and Wife instantaneously. This is what really ticks me off–any growth or maturity Bella could have come to through her own reasoning, any of the inner dialogue Ms. Meyer could have written beautifully is sidestepped. It’s all so very…cookie cutter. No hard feelings, no need for Bella to realize that she has made some pretty shoddy immature decisions–just instantaneous metamorphosis from meekling to lioness.
But how about the other characters? Edward is pretty much the same unwaveringly devoted figure. This dynamic has kinda creeped me out since the beginning–Edward doesn’t have much of a purpose or personality outside of his mindless devotion/obsession with Bella. Jacob I think is characterized beautifully, but it’s the plot that kills it for me (more on that later). Alice shops a lot. Emmett makes jokes about Bella and Edward’s sex life. Rosalie is blonde and wants a baybay of her own. Jasper scowls. Esmee wrings her hands and Carlisle sighs a lot.
On the flip side, I did enjoy seeing more of Seth and Leigh as they defect with Jacob to his separate pack. We get much more of a feel for both of these characters–especially the prickly Leigh and her plight as the only female werewolf. In comparison, the Cullens are pretty drab.
II. The Plot
Here’s where the ‘freaky-deaky’ comes in. First off, I hated the pregnancy storyline. I kinda felt like I was watching LOST again, where the writer’s idea of a compelling female plotline showing character growth without doing any of the work is to give a character a baby. I hated that Bella’s CHOICE to sacrifice her life to become a vampire was forfeit and all the moral issues it would have conjured up were tidily sidestepped by making her transformation to a vampire a matter of necessity for her survival. When I first read Bella was preggers, I could actually feel my eyes popping out of their sockets, desperately rereading the last passage to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. No such luck.
While Bella is pregnant and her health continues to deteriorate (since the baby is a vampire and sucking her dry from the inside), the narrative switches over to Jacob’s POV. He comes in and sees the desperate situation, and a distraught Edward pulls him aside. Edward asks Jacob to talk to Bella since she won’t listen to him or even consider giving up her baby. Edward wants Jacob to tell Bella that if she really wants a baby, she can have one from him–and by “him” I mean Jacob. That’s right! Edward tells Jacob that he’s cool with him impregnating Bella at a later date, if having a baby is that important to her. Just so long as she aborts this one.
!?!?!?! This is wrong and weird on so many levels. Jacob considers, tells Bella, Bella refuses. Her condition continues to deteriorate.
Finally, they realize that–ZOMG! The Baby is a VAMPIRE! Bella needs BLOOD, not solid food to feed the baby!! Way to go geniuses. Call me crazy, but I think getting Bella some extra blood would be one of the first methods vampires would explore to help save the vampire baby’s life. Just sayin’.
And then, to add insult to injury, Bella finally gives birth…and she decides to name her baby RENESMEE!!!!! Affectionately nicknamed “NESSIE”!!!! How the hell did this name make it past the editors?! Renesmee, for those who maybe be a little baffled, is for “Renee” (Bella’s mother) plus “Esmee” (Edward’s surrogate mother). Y’know, it’s like TomKat or Brangelina or what have you. Oh and her midle name is Carlie–for “Charlie” (Bella’s father) plus “Carlisle” (Edward’s surrogate father). And “Nessie” is the Loch Ness Monster. Oh HELL yes.
Stupid name aside, even more drama ensues–when Jacob sees Renesmee…he IMPRINTS ON HER!!!! Woot! I can imagine that conversation in a few years, “Well, I WAS desperately in love with your mother, I fantasized about us being together, heck I even agreed to put a human baby in her at your daddy’s request, but YOU are the one I want to listen to beautiful music with Nessie. Just you.”
So…Jacob’s heartbreak is erased because he imprints on Bella’s infant daughter! Goodbye angst and all the events from New Moon and Eclipse–that tangle of emotion, all those feelings Bella and Jacob had for each other are completely bypassed with this resolution. No fuss, no mess, just Bella loving Jacob as her Brother/Son and best friend, and Jacob loving Bella as his Mother-In-Law and best friend. At one point in the story, Edward actually calls Jacob “son”. I cannot begin to express my disappointment and frustration with this squeaky-clean end to everything that had been simmering so effectively and heart-wrenchingly in the prior books. Heck–this was my favorite aspect of the earlier books and the one thing I really admired the author for taking on, daring to make emotions on the page just as complicated and messy as they are in real life. And, with a single plot point, all that was negated.
For the next 100 or so pages, everyone’s happy. Then, one final conflict rears its ugly head, in the form of the Volturi (who we met in New Moon). They hear from a misinformed informant that the Cullen coven has an Immortal Child, and they come full force to destroy them all. In preparation, the Cullens call everyone they know to their side, and vampires filter in from around the world to Forks, ready for a last stand against the dread Volturi. Probably around 100-200 pages is focused on leading up to the conflict–meeting new vampire characters, discovering their talents and figuring out what to tell the Volturi. It is here that Bella learns in addition to possessing unheard of self control, she ALSO is a “sheild” (this is the reason Edward cannot hear her thoughts, and why the Volturi could not harm her with their powers earlier in the series). Of course, Bella masters her power in time for the final conflict and is able to sheild everyone on the side of the Cullens against any impending attack.
And then…with this epic final battle all ready to go…it NEVER HAPPENS. Again, I’m disappointed, and more than a little pissed off. All that buildup for nothing–it’s kinda the story of this series.
III. The “Message”
This is what bothers me the most with this book. Not that I think all books need to have a “message”, but when you’re writing for young impressionable tweens and teens, this is something that has to cross a reader’s mind. I’m more than a little uncomfortable with the ultimate ending of this series, and the message it sends out to those younger female readers.
Bella makes a lot of bad decisions. Her entire sense of self-worth and her entire future is based on other characters–she willingly, without exploring the consequences of her actions, trades in her mortality to be with the hot, deadly guy from school. Which would have been fine had Ms. Meyer shown that every decision and action comes with a necessary consequence or sacrifice. For Bella to become a vampire and choose her true love over everything else, she would have to sacrifice her future, family and friends. I would have been fine with reading this–but as it stands, Bella makes these decisions and magically has to sacrifice NOTHING.
So, in the end, Bella can be the immature character she has been for the entire book and make calamitous decisions with absolutely NO negative consequences. In the end Bella gets to: become an ethereally beautiful immortal vampire, powerful beyond measure for the first time in her life, she gets to have Edward, Nessie, AND her human family (thanks to her unprecedented self control), Jacob (by his imprinting on her daughter), no one is hurt (there is no epic battle due to Bella’s shielding superpowers), everything is settled with the La Push werewolf pack (because Jacob imprinted on Bella’s daughter), and she gets to live happily ever after in her magic fairy tale cottage in the woods. Oh yeah, and she’s rich balls too.
I’m all for happy endings–but this is plain ridiculous. What exactly are young girls supposed to take away from this sprawling saga? That it is ok to make all those bad choices, without any hallmark for the future, because everything will magically be ok in the end? There are no consequences to stupid decisions because there will always be someone there to save you? The 18 year old wedding, pregnancy and happy ever after will find you no matter what mess you make of things, so long as you are ready to die for your true love?
I doubt this is what Ms. Meyer had in mind when she wrote this fairy tale…but it’s the impression I get after finishing the book, and it does not sit well with me at all.
So that’s my say–I’m curious to see what anyone else thinks? Agreements or disagreements? I open the floor to discussion–I’m anxious to see how others interpreted the book, I’m especially keen to see how those who enjoyed the book see things.