Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3.5)
We all know Stephanie Meyer, the best-selling author who was inspired to write Twilight by a dream. And even if you're actively avoiding Twilight news these days, it's likely that you've recently been bombarded with Midnight Sun announcements and updates following the one-million-copy-selling release.
I finished Midnight Sun a couple days ago, and it took me quite some time to decide if I was going to review the novel. Obviously, I chose yes, but let me tell you why.
Midnight Sun is Twilight from Edward Cullen's point of view. While it includes the main plot points of the original story, Edward's focal point adds another dimension to the novel, one I perhaps even preferred more than the original.
What I enjoyed most about MS is that Edward is a compelling character. While many Twilight naysayers lamented the fact that Bella wasn't very engaging, they can't really say the same about her vampire counterpart. Bella was aware of Edward's quest to protect her soul, despite his involvement with her, but I Twilight never shows the depths of Edward's thoughts or concern. He is a much more complex character from his point of view, and the worries that Bella easily brushes away from to the forefront of the story like never before.
Edward ruminates on everything. He thinks through everything, an because of Edward's ability to read other's minds, we're also able to better understand Alice's vision and the length that Jasper goes through to protect his family, despite his own struggles. In this, Edward becomes the perfect POV for a story like this. It's not just a story of Edward and Bella, but of seven vampires working hard to redeem the souls that Edward believes they lost while being challenged by the difficulties of bringing an outsider into their lives.
The novel focuses a lot Edward's connection to his family. His relationships with Alice and Rosalie stand out the most as being the most complex. While Alice and Edward instantly understood the bond they would share, Rosalie and Edward continue to struggle to understand one another. Perhaps the most disappointing part of this is that Edward often acts like a typical 17 year old when it comes to Rosalie. Even though he supposedly understands her mind and the reasons for her actions, he often brushes her off.
Edward is made out to be the most empathetic due to his ability, but that empathy fails with Rosalie. And thinking forward through the rest of the Twilight Saga, it's Rosalie who eventually comes around to Edward and Bella without compromise.
In this way, I think Meyer missed a chance for Edward to really face a struggle within his own family. She did surprisingly well working with the premade dialogue from Twilight, so I don't think that can be used as an excuse for why Edward never tries to compromise with Rosalie's emotions.
However, this weakness in Edward does work to humanize him, ironically. I was struck by how Edward oscillates between 103-year-old vampire and 17 year old boy. Edward discusses how he is ultimately frozen, and Meyer really created a character that is both over a hundred years old and simultaneously a teenager. His thoughts are filled with his desire to be better and to acknowledge the loss of his soul, but his words and actions often belie that he is simply forever stuck with the decision-making process of a teenager. He makes impulsive choices he knows he shouldn't, and he interacts with those around him in a way that suggests he's desperately trying to make up for his own shortcomings. It's like he's running but never reaching his goal. It's that same sense of failure and self-consciousness that many burgeoning adults deal with.
Unfortunately, some parts of Meyer's attempt to fill plot holes weren't as successful. Namely the Arizona scenes when they're getting to Bella from the airport. Out of all the parts from Twilight that Midnight Sun skipped over, it might feel like it was integral for the readers to experience Edward's panic at losing Bella, but the way it was done was too much. Too unrealistic. Too sped through (pun intended).
Similar to what I felt about Twilight, everything up until the baseball game was better done. The joy of this novel was watching Edward struggle and come to terms with the dueling pull(s) he feels toward Bella. Once it becomes a chase, it's good the first time around, but the real magic is in the relationships that come before (between Bella, her friends, Edward, the Cullens, etc. Even the earliest scenes with Jacob are funny).
While I didn't find Bella disinteresting in the original, I think she was the most lackluster of the characters in Midnight Sun. While this is probably due to the limitation of Edward not being able to read her mind (thus Meyer not being able to include her commentary), I felt like she was set up, in Edward's mind, as too little too early on. I know the from Bella's POV it seemed that Edward was aloof before the science-classroom scene, but Meyer didn't have to stick to that once we know Edward's thoughts. Making Bella plain to him in the beginning, then suddenly the most beautiful once he smells her blood, really makes me wonder if Edward had any choice in Bella at all, or was it some vampire instinct that bonded him to her (in the way, he says, can never be undone due to his nature).
I would've preferred Edward to see something in Bella early on. It would've quelled the idea that she simply always flies under the radar. Perhaps Meyer chose for her to be mundane to him early as a foil to all the other boys at Forks High, but it really changed my reading of Midnight Sun and their relationship.
Is this simply Edward fighting against his bloodlust for Bella? Or, by always trying to leave, is he fighting against some innate, forced romantic feelings brought on by his "nature"? Does he really love her or is he, to put it in Jacob terms, imprinted on her, whether he wants to be or not?
In the end, I'm left struck by these questions more so than I am by the version of Edward as some reluctant-Hades that Meyer attempted to write.