Title: Breaking Dawn
Author: Stephanie Meyer
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Stand alone or series: Fourth book in the Twilight Saga
Why did I read this book: I am a fan of the series, having read and been increasingly impressed with each of Ms. Meyer’s subsequent books.
Summary: (from StephenieMeyer.com)
Twilight tempted the imagination. New Moon made readers thirsty for more. Eclipse turned the saga into a worldwide phenomenon. And now, the book that everyone has been waiting for….
Breaking Dawn, the final book in the #1 bestselling Twilight Saga, will take your breath away.
After some discussion with Holly of The Book Binge (check out her review HERE), 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(this post) will be SPOILER FREE, whereas Part II will contain a more in-depth discussion with SPOILERS. If you have read Breaking Dawn and wish to discuss it (I certainly do!), please leave any comments in the next post, to save people from being spoiled.
Please note that while this post is spoiler-free for Breaking Dawn, it DOES contain necessary spoilers from the first three books. If you have not yet read through Eclipse, and you want to stay unspoiled, avert your virgin eyes!
Breaking Dawn is the fourth and final book in the Twilight Saga–eagerly anticipated from the legion of loyal fans, and kept pretty tightly under wraps for the past year. I myself was a big fan of the series–not so much because of the happy romance of Twilight, but more so because of the tough, gritty moral issues in New Moon and Eclipse, and the surprisingly complex examination of love, obsession and sacrifice in these later books. I found Twilight to be a good book but was far more interested in the complications presented in New Moon and Eclipse, with Edward and Jacob. So, naturally, I was excited to see how it would all end–Ms. Meyer had not shied away from taking the hard road in her prior books, and I was confident that she would do something to shock us all in Breaking Dawn.
Unfortunately, I was both right and wrong–I was shocked all right. But not in a good way.
Breaking Dawn begins shortly after the ending point of Eclipse–Bella is wrestling with her brand new fancy Mercedes and embarrassed by all the attention it is bringing to her (as of course was Edward’s intent by giving her the flashy, pricey engagement present). Despite her embarrassment and trepidation for the upcoming wedding, Bella is happy. And why shouldn’t she be–she’s about to forfeit her human life to become a vampire and spend the rest of eternity with her true love. Jacob is still missing, having run off in heartbreak after receiving his wedding invitation, but despite this cloud hanging over the festivities, Bella and the Cullens continue with their wedding arrangements. The date finally arrives, and Bella and Edward have a beautiful, lavish ceremony–attended by kin and friends from both the Swans and Cullens. Jacob musters up enough toughness to drop in and wish his love and best friend a final goodbye, even though he is torn apart by the fact that soon she will be a “leech” and not his Bella anymore. And then, Jacob learns about the bargain Bella and Edward have struck–Bella will marry Edward before her transformation and promise to go to university with him, so long as he promises to have sex with her before she becomes a vampire. Jacob loses it completely, knowing the life-threatening danger such an act would put Bella in (not to mention this bargain is ridiculous in the first place, but that’s something for the next post). I digress. Anyways, Jacob gets mad, has to be dragged away from the party and goes wolf in the woods again, howling his pain. Bella and Edward leave for their honeymoon to a secluded and unknown location to Bella. Many hours and plane rides later, they arrive at their destination: Isle Esmee, a small private island off the coast of Brazil. And here’s where the freaky-deaky shizz goes down and the Twilight saga gets turned on its head.
I finished this book in a sort of weird daze. The one word that I think encompasses Breaking Dawn: “bizarre”. The characters made strange decisions and behaved oddly, the storyline so completely over-the-top-where-the-hell-is-the-shark-because-I’ve-jumped-so-far-I’m-in-another-ocean. The sad thing is, the book is still written beautifully in Stephenie Meyer’s trademark style. I finished it feeling like Ms. Meyer picked the worst, most ludicrous fanfic out there and then fashioned her book around it. So many plot points had me shaking my head in disbelief. Just…no.
First, the good. Breaking Dawn is divided into three ‘books’. Books 1 & 3 are narrated by Bella, whereas book 2 (a significant portion of the story) is narrated by Jacob–as you may recall, we got a brief taste of Jacob’s narrative at the end of Eclipse. The choice of character narrations seemed a bit strange to me–why have Jacob’s side of the story if not Edward’s?–but I appreciated more insight into Jacob’s plight, the thoughts of the La Push werewolves, and the different shades of emotion his narrative added to the story. As the plot is divided into three separate parts, each book marks a significant turning point for Bella. The format of the book, if nothing else, worked for me. This is something Ms. Meyer has done in each of her books effectively–using formatting and partitions to convey a highly appropriate atmosphere for her novels (i.e. In New Moon, when Edward leaves Bella, the blank pages signifying the passing of months and the emptiness of her life without him is incredibly effective, conveying Bella’s heartbreak better than any words could).
Similarly, Ms. Meyer’s prose is beautiful and flowing, as usual. Certainly I felt that the book could have used some trimming down of the excess verbiage–Ms. Meyer doesn’t really ‘do’ action scenes, and 800 pages of emotions and atmosphere gets a little tiring to read, especially for a young adult novel (there is a significant difference between reading 1000 pages of constant magic and action in the Harry Potter books versus 800 pages of “sparkling” beautiful vampire description and wavering emotions, no matter how prettily worded).
That’s about where the goodness ends for me. No matter how solidly written a book Breaking Dawn is, that doesn’t change the fact that the characters felt out of whack, and that the story was contrived and ridiculous. All the angst, the tension, the hard moral choices set up in the first three books were abandoned here in order for a Happily Ever After (for every character). The thing I loved the most about these books was the honest and brutal examination of love–be it the obsessive, doomed sort of love between Edward and Bella, or the more balanced, human emotions between Bella and Jacob. I loved that Edward made a decision to leave Bella in New Moon and that the consequences of that decision figured prominently in this love triangle in subsequent books. I loved that Bella realizes that it is possible to love more than one person at the same time, and that love is about real sacrifice–and that it can hurt more than just the people directly involved. I was eagerly looking forward to see where Stephenie Meyer would take us next–would Bella realize that perhaps throwing her entire mortal life away at 18 years old (literally throwing her life away, as she will no longer be able to see Jacob, her friends, her father and mother) for the man of her dreams might have some serious implications she hasn’t really thought through? Would there be any in-depth discussion of these issues, some real soul searching and maturity in Bella’s character?
The answer, unfortunately, is a big fat no. Instead of characters coming to the tough decisions themselves, plot mechanisms rule the day. All the events that happen are outside of each character’s control–which is infuriating for me, since I know that Ms. Meyer is capable of tackling the nitty gritty and not relying on contrivances and deus ex machinas to write her books. Similarly, I felt like I was cheated out of Bella coming to any mature decisions and growth of her own. Something that really, really bothers me is that this is a young adult series, and one voraciously read by a younger female audience. As such, I cannot agree with the ‘message’ that this sends out to tweens and teens–Bella makes bad choices. Which is fine, but she does not grow from these choices. In fact, she is REWARDED for them. Her dangerous, life-threatening obsession with Edward, the fact that Bella’s entire sense of self worth is derived from other characters and her complete dependence on them…it doesn’t sit well with me at all.
I won’t even go into the plot points here (but please check back for the Spoiler Post for a more in-depth discussion). Suffice to say that I was not pleased in the slightest. I felt like I was watching an especially bad episode of Beverly Hills 90210.
Overall, Breaking Dawn was a huge disappointment in this reviewer’s opinion. I’m actually kinda bummed out for the Twilight movie later this year. Perhaps if the bar wasn’t set so high with Ms. Meyer’s previous books I would not feel as strongly as I do now, but alas. One can only hope that the author’s next endeavor is more successful and up to par with her earlier works.
Rating: 4 Bad, but not without some merit.