Top Picks for 2006 (So Far)
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New Moon: Stephenie Meyer

There's a real risk in absolutely adoring the first book in a new series. The problem, of course, is that it's difficult for the second book to live up to the first. And let me tell you that I LOVED Stephenie Meyer's first book, Twilight (my review is here). I eagerly awaited the sequel, New Moon. I counted the weeks, and pre-ordered it from Amazon as a special birthday gift to myself.

If you haven't read Twilight yet, I suggest that you stop reading here. New Moon picks up a few months after Twilight lets off, as Bella and Edward start 12th grade in Forks, Washington, and Bella prepares to "celebrate" her 18th birthday. Bella is devastated to be marking her 18th birthday because Edward, who is immortal, will never be older than 17. She continues to beg him to transform her into a vampire, like himself, but Edward holds firm. She dreams a horrible dream in which she is an old woman, and Edward is just as young and beautiful as ever.

Bella and Edward continue to struggle with the difficulties that come from a vampire/non-vampire relationship. Their intimacy is kept constantly in check, because Edward fears losing control and hurting Bella. And woe unto them all should the clumsy Bella end up with a paper cut in front of Edward's family. After a near crisis in this area, Edward breaks up with Bella and leaves town, leaving Bella with a gigantic hole in her heart, and a near-total ability to function and interact with other people. The parallels that Meyer draws between Edward and Bella's story and that of Romeo and Juliet seem, if anything, to make Juliet seem not so dedicated in comparison to Bella.

Other adventures follow, of course. The town of Forks, and Bella herself, seem to be magnets for danger and disaster. I don't want to say too much about the plot, at the risk of giving anything away. But Jacob, the young Indian boy that Bella befriended in the first book, plays a key role, as do other mythical creatures, in addition to vampires. Bella takes risks, learns to stand up for herself, and makes important decisions.

I think that New Moon is just as well written as Twilight. I read it in one sitting (all 576 pages), whiling away an entire Saturday. I enjoyed getting to know Bella better, and seeing her become stronger. I loved spending time with Jacob, too. Even Charlie (Bella's Dad) evolved during the book, becoming more confident as a parent (Bella didn't move in with him until her junior year in high school). I found the descriptions of Bella's heartbreak compelling and moving. I thought that Meyer's device of just including a blank page for each of several months worked well in conveying Bella's initial grief without any words. The plot, especially near the end of the book, was gripping. I'm consumed with assembling all of the little hints about how Bella is different from other people (Edward can't read her mind, she's a magnet for trouble, she can't stand the sight of blood, etc.), and figuring out what they might mean.

And yet... I just can't say that I loved New Moon in the same way that I loved Twilight. The reason is simple. Edward was absent from a large chunk of the book, and I missed him. What I loved most about Twilight was Bella and Edward's relationship, their banter, their longing, the way they guarded themselves from each other. I likened it in my Twilight review to the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. In New Moon, Edward and Bella's relationship is much more like that of Romeo and Juliet, tortured and heartbreaking and filled with loss. Oh, I understand why this was necessary to keep the series going. But my heart, like Bella's, felt a bit empty without Edward as a major part of the story.

I'll still be lining up for the third book in the series (Eclipse, due out in fall of 2007), and awaiting future books after that. And I did put New Moon on my Best of 2006 (so far) list, because I didn't want to penalize Stephenie Meyer for having written such a wonderful first book in Twilight. If you liked Twilight, then New Moon is a must-read. (And if you haven't read Twilight, then I highly recommend that you go back and start there). Just be prepared for Edward to be missing from a large section of the book, and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Book: New Moon
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Original Publication Date: August 2006
Pages: 576
Age Range: 14 and up
I also enjoyed New Moon reviews by Stephanie Ford at Children's Literature Book Club and Leila Roy at bookshelves of doom.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.