Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Moon (book) by Stephenie Meyer

One of the student workers at my library is wild about this series - when she heard that I had read the first book, she kept bugging me to read the rest. After I decided to go see the Twilight movie, reading the second book in the series seemed like a good idea. One of the nice things about being the one and only cataloger at my library is the ability to be the first (or one of the first) people to check out whatever is cataloged. I can also bump things up to the top of the "to be cataloged" list. The student worker I mentioned had already had me catalog the first and fourth books in the series, so I cataloged the second one and checked it out right after it had been processed. Then I made it my reading project for the Thanksgiving weekend.

I didn't enjoy Twilight as much as I had hoped I would, although I didn't think it was a bad book. The things I didn't enjoy about Twilight didn't really go away in New Moon: Bella's thoughts (and often her speech) are terribly melodramatic, Bella seems to be lacking in survival instincts, and every single teenage male in Forks (the town the books are set in) finds Bella attractive. However, maybe this time around I was more prepared for all of that or something, because it was easier for me to ignore all of that and just enjoy the story. It made for some nice reading over the long weekend.

At the beginning of this book, Bella and Edward are still all lovey-dovey, but there is trouble in paradise. Bella is still a human, which is the source of all kinds of worry and trouble. Bella worries about growing older while Edward stays eternally 17. Then there's Bella's accident-prone nature - once again, she bleeds in front of the Cullens. Edward, as usual, is upset by his own reaction to Bella's blood and by the danger Bella is in whenever she's around him and his family. This has been an issue since the first book, but in this book Edward decides to actually do something about it, and his family's circumstances provide a convenient solution.

The Cullens, being vampires, don't age, and it's gotten to the point where they won't be able to fake being human much longer. For their own safety, they decide to leave. Edward not only leaves Bella behind, he convinces her that he no longer loves her. Bella is destroyed. The only reason she doesn't just kill herself is because she promised Edward she wouldn't. Still, she spends months numb and zombie-like until she renews her friendship with Jacob.

Bella sees Jacob as a source of warmth and happiness in her life - she needs him in a way she hasn't needed anyone since Edward, but she doesn't love him like she loves Edward. Jacob loves her, even though he realizes she might not ever feel about him the way he feels about her (which, I'm guessing, doesn't stop him from hoping). Their relationship works out surprisingly well, until Jacob is drawn into what Bella at first believes is a cult.

Warning: there's some spoilers up ahead.

Anyway, the cult is not a cult, but rather a werewolf pack. Jacob has become a werewolf. Young werewolves are in constant danger of losing their tempers and turning on whoever is near them, so it's no longer safe for Bella to be around Jacob. However, she still needs him for her emotional well-being, and he still loves her. Since Jacob isn't allowed to tell Bella what he's become, it's a good thing Bella manages to figure it out on her own. Also, it turns out that the pack can help Bella - Victoria, one of the baddies from the first book, is back and determined to kill Bella in order to punish Edward for killing James, her mate. Werewolves are natural enemies of vampires, so the pack is perfectly willing to try to kill Victoria and protect Bella.

Eventually, Bella does something stupid and almost ends up dying. Actually, Alice Cullen thinks Bella really does die and returns to Forks to see if there's anything she can do for Charlie, Bella's dad. Unfortunately, although Alice discovers that Bella is still alive, Edward doesn't. Since he can't bear to live in a world without her in it, he travels to Italy, determined to force the ruling vampire family to kill him. Bella and Alice rush to stop him and manage to make it in time. However, Bella has now been brought to the attention of some very old, powerful, and dangerous vampires. Not only do they think she smells fabulous, they'd love to see what she's capable of once she's turned into a vampire. The only reason everyone gets out of this alive is because Alice and Edward promise that Bella will soon be made into a vampire. Bella may like that idea, but Edward doesn't.

By the end of the book, Edward has promised never to leave Bella again, Jacob refuses to be friends with Bella as long as she hangs out around the vampires (and he or one of his pack will probably kill her if she's ever turned into a vampire), and Charlie is pissed at Edward ("how dare the scumbag who hurt my daughter try to make himself a part of her life again!" - that sort of thing).

I'll quit with the spoilers now and move on to the commentary. First, I'll just say this: boy, Bella sure can pick them. In the first book, she ends up with a boyfriend who can't help but want to rip her throat out. In this book, she ends up with a "not quite a boyfriend but more than a friend" who might accidentally kill or maim her one day in a fit of rage.

Really, though, Jacob is a nice guy. He didn't show up much in the last book, so I wasn't sure how I'd feel about him being one of the main characters in this book (this time, Edward is the one who's barely around), but I really grew to like him. Actually, I felt really bad for him. In Twilight, the guys practically panted around Bella, and she barely seemed to notice or care (poor Mike). The pattern repeats itself in this book, although she eventually does admit that she feels bad about basically using the lovestruck Jacob as a crutch. The only reason I didn't hate her for it was because she took the time to tell Jacob that she can't feel about him the way he feels about her. He said he was okay with that, but I wonder - it probably never occurred to him that Edward would eventually come back.

Meyer succumbs to the desire to include a few vampire-novel clichés - now her world of vampires and werewolves includes a ruling body of powerful European vampires, and Bella turns out to be Special. Powerful, scary European vampires are nothing new (see Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series, although only if you're old enough to be reading explicit sex scenes), but that cliché didn't really bother me. Actually, I'm hoping this will turn out to be an interesting development (although it's also apparently a sign that this series will no longer be confined to the small town of Forks). The revelation that no vampire's special powers work on Bella (except, apparently, Alice's, but no one thinks to wonder why this is) may also turn out to be an interesting development. However, it means that Bella is no longer an average, ordinary girl who just happens to be dating a vampire. It also opens up the possibility of a Mary Sue situation, which would just be annoying.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, despite its significant lack of Edward. Although I'm sure that the later books will have all the same problems as the first and second books, and then some, I'm looking forward to eventually reading them.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Daughters of Darkness (book) by L. J. Smith - This is the second book in Smith's Night World Series - the first book gives readers a little more information about the world and includes an appearance of one of the main characters in this book, but it should still be easy enough to follow along with the second if you haven't read the first. Mary-Lynette and her brother Mark are curious about the new girls who've moved to their town. They see something that lead them to believe the girls might've killed someone. Things get even more complicated when Ash, a relative of the girls, comes to town. The three new girls are actually vampires and fugitives from the Night World, and Ash is determined to bring them back. Unfortunately, Ash and Mary-Lynette turn out to be soulmates (very forbidden in the Night World), and there's also still a murderer to deal with in town. Those who'd like another teenage vampire romance with a crazy-in-love werewolf added to the mix might like this book.
  • The Darkangel (book) by Meredith Ann Pierce - Aeriel is kidnapped by an impossibly beautiful darkangel who needs her as part of his final steps towards becoming a true vampyre. Although part of his plans for her include draining her of her blood, there's something about him that makes her want to save him. The romance in this book (trilogy, actually) is darker than in Meyer's Twilight series, but those who'd like something with a more pensive mood might enjoy this book. It's been a while since I've read it, but I was obsessed with this trilogy when I was 14 or 15 years old.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (live action TV series) - Buffy used to be a popular cheerleader, until she discovered that she's the Slayer, the girl whose job it is to defeat the supernatural baddies intent on killing everything and taking over the world. She does her job with the help of her friends, her Watcher (her high school's librarian), and, eventually, a brooding vampire. Those who'd like something else with teenage vampire romance, werewolves and other creatures, and the occasional supernatural threat might like this series. Hey, there's even a little bit of teenage werewolf romance at one point.
  • Guilty Pleasures (book) by Laurell K. Hamilton - This is the first book in Hamilton's Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, set in an alternate history where vampires, werewolves and more are now a (sometimes uncomfortable) part of society. Anita Blake is a vampire executioner, an animator (she can raise the dead), and a consultant to the police on all things supernatural. In this first book, someone's killing innocent vampires, and, although Anita's killed her share of vampires, she does her best to find the killer. Those who'd like a story that, eventually, has a vampire-human-werewolf love triangle might like this series. A warning, however - there is some very explicit sex in this series, especially in later volumes.
  • Moon Called (book) by Patricia Briggs - This is the first book in a series. Mercy is a mechanic and a skinwalker, someone who can turn into a coyote at will. Mercy is smart and tough, but she's definitely no Mary Sue - she may be able to shapeshift or not whenever she wants, and she may be fast and have a good sense of smell, but she's also weaker and more human than most of the beings she's around. In this book, Mercy and others investigate attacks on local werewolves - although fairies have revealed their existence to humankind, werewolves haven't yet, and random killings could unveil werewolves before they're ready. Those who'd like another story with lots of werewolves, plus an element of romance (although this is much less of a romance than the Twilight series), might like this book and series. This series is intended for adults, so there's sex scenes and graphic violence that may not be appropriate for younger readers.

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