Thursday, November 8, 2012

Book Review: New Moon

            So, in the novel Twilight, we were introduced to Bella Swan, a young human girl, and Edward Cullen, the ‘vegetarian’ vampire, who share a consuming yet forbidden love.  After the whole ordeal with the tracker vampire, James, in the last book, it looks as if Edward and Bella’s love can overcome anything.  But as one would expect, problems have a tendency to present themselves when a human and a vampire fall in love.

            As New Moon, the sequel to Twilight, begins, Edward and Bella are just starting their senior year at Forks High School.  On Bella’s 18th birthday, she accompanies Edward to his home, where the entire Cullen family throws her a birthday party.  However, as Bella is opening her presents, she accidentally cuts her finger on the wrapping paper, drawing blood.  This event leads to Jasper, the Cullen family member who has the hardest time resisting human blood, temporarily loosing control.  Even though Jasper is successfully restrained from attacking Bella, this accident forces Edward to remember the constant danger Bella faces by sharing a love with a vampire.  Not wanting to put the girl he loves into any more danger, Edward decides that it would be best to remove himself from Bella’s life.  As a result, Edward and the rest of the Cullens move away from Forks to an undisclosed location, with Edward leaving Bella with a cold farewell.
            With Edward gone from her life, Bella falls into a deep depression, cutting herself off from the world around her.  After her depression has continued for over three months, her father, Charlie, tries to convince Bella to seek help in dealing with her heartbreak.  Trying to get Charlie off her back, Bella spontaneously decides to visit Port Angeles to see a movie with her classmate, Jessica.  After the movie, Bella and Jessica start to head over to a McDonald’s for dinner, but on the way, Bella sees some men outside a bar who remind her of the men who tried to attack her during her visit to Port Angeles back in Twilight.  As she approaches them, Bella suddenly hears Edward’s voice in her head, instructing her to keep away from the men.  It isn’t too long before Bella realizes that whenever she’s doing something dangerous or reckless, she’d be able to imagine exactly what Edward would be saying to her if he had been there with perfect clarity.  Out of desperation to continue hearing his voice, Bella begins to look for situations that would generate her ‘hallucinations.’  And this includes secretly buying and learning to ride a motorcycle, something her father has always forbidden her from.  The motorcycle she buys turns out to be in need of repair, and Bella remembers her Quileute friend from Twilight, Jacob Black, is rather good at building cars.  Jacob, as we can clearly see, still harbors his schoolboy crush on Bella, so he’s more than happy to help her repair the motorcycle, and even agrees to 1) keep the motorcycle a secret from Charlie and 2) help her learn how to ride it.  As time goes on, Bella continues to visit Jacob as he works on the motorcycle, and they gradually form a strong friendship.  What’s more, her time with Jacob begins to help Bella cope with the emotional and mental wounds Edward’s departure left her with, becoming her safe haven.
            After a while, strange things begin happening.  It starts with multiple sightings of strange bear-like creatures in the forests surrounding Forks, followed by hikers suddenly disappearing.  While this is going on, Jacob confides in Bella about a small gang that has been forming in La Push, led by Sam Uley.  Sam’s gang leaves Jacob feeling incredibly uneasy, especially when one of Jacob’s friends, Embry, starts hanging around with Sam, despite the fact that Embry had previously disliked Sam even more than Jacob had.
            Anyway, Bella eventually invites Jacob to join her and her friends to see another movie in the city.  After the movie, Jacob makes a vow to Bella that he’d always be there for her, and would never let her down.  However, mere hours after he makes this promise to Bella, he suddenly starts to inexplicably avoid her, even going so far as to ignore her multiple phone calls.  It’s not long before Bella realizes that Jacob has also started hanging out with Sam as well.  Furious at how Sam has seemingly stolen her best friend, she goes down to La Push to confront Jacob.  While she’s there, she has a fight with Jacob, who informs her that they can no longer be friends.
            So now, Bella has not only lost her love and soul mate, Edward, but now she no longer has Jacob to help her cope.  Thankfully, Bella’s newfound anguish does not last long, for the night after their fight, Jacob visits Bella in her room with the use of an amazing display of agility.  After apologizing for breaking his promise to never let her down, he cryptically tells Bella that while he can’t come straight out and explain what’s happened to him, she already knows the truth.  All she needs to do is to put the pieces together.  After Jacob leaves and Bella falls asleep, she ends up dreaming of the day when she first met Jacob at La Push, and how he told her the Quileute legend that helped her realize Edward was a vampire.  As Bella remembers the legend, she recalls that the legend also stated that the ancient Quileutes could turn into wolves.  Once she remembers that part of the legend, Bella instantly realizes the truth: Jacob is a werewolf, and Sam’s ‘gang’ is actually the Quileute werewolf pack.
Now that Bella is in on the secret that surrounds the Quileute tribe of La Push, she is able to determine the truth about the other mysteries that have arisen in the book.  James’ mate, Victoria, has returned to Forks to avenge James’ death in the first book.  Victoria holds Edward responsible for the death of James, and has decided that the best revenge would be to kill Edward’s mate, Bella, in return.  Since vampires are the natural enemy of the Quileute werewolves, Sam, Jacob, and the rest of the pack are doing what they can to stop Victoria.  Once the werewolf pack learns that Bella is the one Victoria is after, it is decided that the safest place for her is on La Push.  She ends up spending all of her free time on the reservation while the werewolf pack continues to hunt for Victoria. 
One day, while Jacob is off with the rest of the pack, Bella is seized by a sudden urge to hear Edward’s voice again and ends up doing something that is undeniably stupid.  Remembering a promise Jacob made to her a long time ago to take her cliff-diving, Bella decides that she doesn’t want to wait for him and attempts the dive herself.  Unfortunately, while she does make the dive successfully, she failed to take into account that the current had become too strong for her, due to a storm that was brewing.  Thankfully, Jacob happened to be near enough at the time and ends up saving Bella from drowning.  However, it turns out someone else had ‘seen’ Bella jump off the cliff.  Edward’s sister, Alice, who has a gift of seeing the future, had a vision of Bella’s jump and concluded that Bella had killed herself.  She returns to Forks to do what she can for Charlie after his only daughter had died, but instead finds out that Bella was alive. 
Bella is overjoyed at seeing Alice again, and Alice agrees to stick around Forks for a while before returning to rejoin her family.  But Alice’s visit is brought to a screeching halt when she has another vision.  This one is of Edward going to Italy to make the Volturi kill him.  His plan to do so involves him stepping out into the sunlight in full view of humans, thereby exposing himself as a vampire, in the Volturi’s home city of Volterra.  The Volturi, as we were told in the beginning of New Moon, serve as the royal family/enforcers of the vampire world.  It’s their job to ensure all vampires obey the rules and keep their existence a secret from the humans.  It turns out that Rosalie, Edward’s other sister, had tracked Edward down and told him about Alice’s vision of Bella’s jump.  Edward, unable to bear the thought that Bella had died, has decided to take a page out of Romeo’s book.   In order to stop Edward’s plan to force the Volturi to kill him, Alice and Bella head off to Italy after him.  Alice and Bella arrive in Voterra with only minutes to spare, but because of the sunlight shining overhead, Alice must remain in shadow.  Thus, only Bella can venture out to the plaza to stop Edward before he can reveal the existence of vampires to the humans in the square.  Bella reaches Edward at the last possible second, not only stopping him from stepping out into the sun, but also showing him that she wasn’t dead after all.  The reunited lovers are not given a chance to properly enjoy their reunion, because some of the Volturi guards appear on the scene to ‘escort’ them to the Volturi’s chambers.  Even though Edward attempts to refuse the ‘invitation,’ he is forced to relent when a small vampire named Jane appears on the scene.  It’s later revealed that Jane possesses a terrifying gift and can inflict the illusion of excruciating pain on anyone who crosses her.
The Volturi guard bring Edward, Bella and Alice before Aro, Caius and Marcus, the three leaders of the Volturi.  Aro displays his intrigue with Bella, who not only is immune to Edward’s mind-reading ability, but also blocks the gifts of Jane and Aro himself.  The vindictive Caius, on the other hand, insists that Bella must die on account of her being a human who knows about the existence of vampires.  It is Alice who grants them a relieve, by showing Aro how her visions indicate that Bella will most certainly become a vampire.  With Alice’s promise, the Volturi allow the three to leave, but not fast enough to keep Bella from witnessing a horde of human tourists being herded into the Volturi’s chambers to satisfy their diet of human blood, a sight that disturbs Bella into near hysterics.
Edward, Bella and Alice leave Italy and take a plane back to Forks, where they are greeted by the rest of the Cullen family.  A few hours after they return Bella back to her home, Bella wakes up from a fitful sleep to find Edward nearby.  As the pair talk, Bella realizes that Edward is still planning to keep Bella human, in spite of the Volturi’s command.  Annoyed by this knowledge, Bella insists on going to see the rest of the Cullens, to ask them to put her humanity to a vote.    Edward reluctantly agrees, and when they arrive at the Cullen’s house, despite Edward trying to come up with an alternative, the majority vote is in favor of Bella becoming a vampire.  Carlisle agrees to change her after she finishes high school, as it would arouse too much suspicion if Bella suddenly disappears while she is still living with Charlie.
As a perturbed Edward brings Bella back home, he manages to get Bella to admit that she’d prefer him to change her into a vampire rather than Carlisle.  After a brief exchange, Edward presents Bella with a compromise.  He will consent to fulfill Bella’s wishes and turn her into a vampire on the condition that she marries him first.  Since Bella had grown up with a deep-rooted reservation to the whole concept of marriage, due in part to her parents divorcing when she was still a baby, Edward’s unorthodox proposal is left hanging.
            This book ends with something of a cliff-hanger.  Victoria is still at large, and, because of the Volturi’s decree, Bella must become a vampire soon, or the entire Cullen family could face death.  To top it all off, in the final pages of New Moon, Jacob reveals that the treaty the Cullens made with the Ancient Quileutes, which prevents the Quileute wolves from attacking the Cullen family, will be broken if the Cullens change a human into a vampire.  And so, the stage is set for Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight series.
            Now, I did enjoy New Moon, especially after re-reading it a few times.  The book earns some major points for all its introductions.  First off, it further builds on Jacob Black’s character.  And the very foundation of his personality is that he truly cares for Bella, so much so that after he becomes a werewolf, he still finds a way to see Bella and let her know what has happened, even though Sam, the pack’s Alpha, has forbidden him to do so.  As we learn later, if the Alpha of the Quileute werewolf pack gives a direct order, the other werewolves are literally unable to disobey it.  By the end of the book, Jacob is probably just as conflicted as Edward.  On the one hand, he genuinely cares for Bella and wants to continue the relationship they developed during Edward’s absence, and even deepen it if he could.  On the other hand, he has a loyalty to the werewolf pack, and therefore, the Cullens are his mortal enemies.  And since Bella has aligned herself with the Cullens, that makes her Jacob’s enemy by association.
            This book is also important for introducing readers to the Volturi.  At this point in the saga, the Volturi come across as a necessary evil.  After all, someone has to keep the vampires of the world in order, right?  Yes, the Volturi member, Jane, is very easy to hate, due to her obvious sadistic nature, and there’s also the fact that the Volturi, collectively, have no reservation in luring innocent humans into their chambers like lambs for the slaughter, but for the most part, they seem to be on the level, so to speak.  However, the next two books in the Twilight saga further build on the Volturi’s true nature, so we begin to see them in a much harsher light.  I’ll go into more about that later.
            Also, like in Twilight, New Moon manages to introduce us to characters that seem like placeholder characters, but actually play a much larger role in the long run.  In Twilight, that character was Jacob Black.  This time, the ‘placeholders’ are the Clearwaters, Leah and Seth.  In New Moon, all we really learn about them is that they’re also Quileutes who live on La Push with their parents, Sue and Harry, and towards the end of the book, Harry has a fatal heart attack.  Once the next book in the saga, Eclipse, came out, we learned a lot more about Leah and Seth, and also that Harry’s heart attack was probably more than the result a cholesterol problem.
            Finally, I can understand why some people might dislike this book because of Edward’s absence throughout most of the book, but his absence is necessary for the story.  Also, while I don’t usually get a kick out of other people’s pain (I am by no means like Jane of the Volturi), there’s still a part of me that enjoys reading about two characters who are so in love, they are deeply wounded by separation.  Interestingly enough, I have seen some criticism about New Moon involving how Bella didn’t just ‘get over it’.  And yet, even though it’s later revealed that Edward was even worse off than her, and had basically ‘curled up in a ball, letting misery take him’, I haven’t seen anyone criticizing him for not ‘getting over it’.  What’s more, I find that how much Bella was left broken and devastated is simply meant to show how deeply entwined she is to Edward.  Contrary to popular belief, we’re not talking about some high school ‘I love you, I love you, too,’ romance.  We’re talking about a vampire and his predestined mate.  In the Twilight universe, the bond between a vampire and his/her mate is a permanent bond that is incapable of being severed.  It’s even stated that vampires not only mate for life, but that if a vampire looses his/her mate, they will either be forever fueled by vengeance (such as is the case with Victoria) or will dwell in eternal misery (like Marcus of the Volturi).  Vampires are incapable of ‘getting over’ a love like that, and as Bella’s behavior indicates, the pull between vampire and mate goes both ways, even if one happens to be human.  (This is further indicated in the back-story of Esme, which is covered in the Twilight Illustrated Guide.  It turns out that Esme actually met Carlisle years before he found her in the morgue after her suicide attempt, which was mentioned in Twilight.  Carlisle left town shortly after their initial meeting, but Esme, despite the fact that she only met Carlisle once, never forgot him and kept comparing all of her suitors to Carlisle.)
Plus, as Bella states straight out during one of her internal monologues, it’s not just loosing Edward that caused her to fall into her depression.  It’s also the loss of the entire Cullen clan, who were practically a second family to her, as well as the future she was envisioning.  Before Edward left, she was sure she’d one day become a vampire, too, and be able to officially join the Cullen family.  But then Edward and the rest of the Cullen family leaves, and all possibility of that future comes crashing down.  Personally, I can’t think of anyone who would ever completely recover if they lost their entire family, AND all their goals and dreams, all on the same day.
            That concludes my review of New Moon.  Be sure to check back soon to see the continuation of Twilight month.

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