Book Review: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

Title: Midnight Sun
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: August 4, 2020
Print length: 662 pages
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger? 

Midnight Sun — the Twilight retelling we either needed or didn’t need, depending on who you ask.

I’m not going to hate on this book. I mean, hey, I compulsively read the Twilight series (multiple times) way back when, attended a midnight release party for Breaking Dawn, saw all the movies… I may even have had a T-shirt and calendar, but I’ll never admit it.

And yes, I’m a grown-ass woman. Anyhoo…

While my tastes and opinions related to the Twilight series have changed substantially over the years, I can’t deny that no matter how ridiculous the plotting and the writing, there’s something weirdly compelling and readable about these books. Despite my better instincts, they’ve always managed to just suck me in completely.

So, Midnight Sun. This is the long promised and often-leaked book that Stephenie Meyer wrote, retelling the events of Twilight from Edward’s tortured and brooding perspective. Does it work? Well, yes, but you have to decided for yourself whether you actually want to need to hear it all.

First, be aware of the length. From an interview on Amazon, the author explains:

The reason Midnight Sun is a hundred pages longer than Twilight is because the font is much, much smaller. The word count gives you a better picture: Twilight is around 119,000 words; Midnight Sun is about 240,000. It’s literally twice as long. It was obvious from the beginning that Edward’s version would be quite a bit longer. First of all, Edward never sleeps. Secondly, he’s quite the overthinker. Third, he’s lived a lot longer than Bella and thus has a bunch of flashbacks. The length wasn’t something I decided to do 14 years later; the story always demanded this.

You read that correctly: If you’re looking just at word count, which is a better measure for comparison, Midnight Sun is TWICE as long as Twilight, even though it’s telling the same exact story. Living inside Edward’s head must be exhausting!

So let’s get on with my reactions to this book.

Yes, the length was annoying. I felt like I was reading this book non-stop, and it still took me all week to finish. And while I was entertained at first, I got a little weary after a while.

Everything that’s ridiculous and/or annoying about the original is still ridiculous/annoying here. Vampire baseball is still stupid. The Cullens always seeming to pick up Bella and carry her instead of trusting her to walk on her own two feet is all sorts of awkward, and really funny to visualize. Going to hide in Phoenix because the bad guy would assume Bella isn’t stupid enough to hide in Phoenix is… stupid.

The idea that the Cullens could actually attend human high school and blend in somehow is utterly nonsensical. Of course, I do blame the movie version a bit for this, because before seeing the movie, it maybe wasn’t quite as startling in my head how white and nonhuman they all look. But even just reading Midnight Sun, it’s absolutely clear that don’t fit in.

Never mind that fact that if I’d been alive for decades, not to mention a century, the last thing I’d want to do would be to sit through high school over and over again. How utterly awful. Especially given that 4 of the 5 Cullen “children” attending high school are living in partnered adult relationships. Are they teens or adults? It’s weird and confusing every time Edward thinks of himself as being 17.

It’s also funny to realize how much my memory of the Twilight story is influenced by scenes from the movie. I was 100% sure that the big confrontation between Bella and Edward, when she admits that she knows he’s a vampire, takes place in the forest. Right? Right?

Well, sorry, that’s wrong. They’re in Edward’s car. Not quite as dramatic a setting.

But let’s switch over to the positive. It IS actually interesting to see events from Edward’s perspective, to get more of a detailed look at why he reacts to Bella the way he does. Funnily enough, the most interesting parts of Midnight Sun for me are the scenes without Bella, when we see what else was going on when we were following Bella in Twilight.

We get a lot more of the Cullens, and they’re always the best part of the story. We learn a lot about the family history, Edward’s relationships with his different siblings, and how they behave amongst themselves when it’s just them, with no fragile little humans in their midst.

The best character, as always, is Alice. There’s just so much more of her here, and she’s a treat. Through Edward and Alice’s interactions, we get a much better view of how her visions of the future and Edward’s mind-reading work together, and honestly? It’s kind of cool.

Also, through Alice’s visions, we find out more about how Edward sees the future. Alice continually shows him possible outcomes as he falls deeper and deeper in love (or obsession) with Bella, and most aren’t pretty at all. No wonder he’s so torn up inside all the frickin’ time. On the other hand, it’s adorable how Alice tries to steer Edward in certain directions, because she’s seen already that she’s going to love Bella, even before she knows her, and doesn’t want to ruin the chance of being her friend. Awwwww.

Emmett is also pretty awesome as Edward’s closest brother and friend, always having his back and all-around pretty chill. Jasper is a bit enigmatic in this version, and Rosalie isn’t particularly likable, even though Edward repeatedly explains why she feels the way she does about Bella.

I really liked a dramatic car chase scene toward the end where the family basically acts as Edward’s GPS, with Alice monitoring the future for road conditions and speed traps, and the other family members acting as rear and side mirrors, watching the road so Edward can view it through their eyes. Kind of ridiculous, but also pretty fun.

I mean, sure, the more problematic aspects of Twilight are still as problematic in Midnight Sun. Edward is such an obsessive stalker — but I guess because he acknowledges it to himself, it’s supposed to be okay? Sorry, but there’s no way to make his behavior (like lurking in Bella’s bedroom while she sleeps) not creepy, even if he justifies it through his compulsion to keep her safe every second of the day.

And the writing? Well, I suppose tastes may vary, but here are a couple of snippets that prompted me to have to close the book for a minute or two and refocus.

It felt like simmering coals, as though a dull version of my thirsting burn had spread throughout my entire body.

I’m not entirely sure what that means, to be honest.

With her wet hair looping in long seaweed tangles around her shoulders, and her face glowing in the moonlight, she looked more than good. The English language needed a word that meant something halfway between a goddess and a naiad.

Oh, Edward. You’re just too much.

And I guess “too much” is about how I feel overall about this book. I liked it, gotta be honest. It was fun in spots. But Edward is SO broody and introspective, and he just never stops. And even at the end, he’s still planning to leave Bella, which really isn’t the impression I had from the end of Twilight. So that’s a good twist, but I’m not convinced that the new and different outlooks really justify the length of this doorstop of a book.

Please don’t ask me if I’d read more books set in the Twilight world, if Stephenie Meyer decides to keep going.

I think we all know the answer to that question.

Admit it. You’re totally going to read the new Twilight book, aren’t you?

You caught the big news this week, right? No, not the coronavirus. Or skyrocketing unemployment rates. Or whether we should all be drinking Lysol. (Answer: No.)

Stephenie Meyer announced on Monday that after years of delay, she’s finally releasing Midnight Sun. Yes, after something like 13 years, we’ll finally have the privilege of finding out what Edward was thinking all those times he watched Bella sleep.

The brief history, for those who don’t know: Midnight Sun retells the events of Twliight, but from Edward Cullen’s point of view. Stephenie Meyer was working on this book ages ago, but after the manuscript was leaked online in 2008, she basically felt that the story was ruined and decided to not go further with the project.

But we’ve never forgotten, have we?

Okay, snark aside, I was as hooked on the story as anyone back in the day when the Twilight books were shiny and new. Maybe not to insane shrieking, crying fan levels — but I owned all the books (um, still do…)

See them hiding back there on my very top shelf? Buffy is there to make sure the sparkly vampires don’t escape.

… and I went to a midnight release event for Breaking Dawn, had a few Twilight-themed t-shirts courtesy of Hot Topic, and engaged in many a heated Team Edward vs Team Jacob debate. (For the record, Team Edward, all the way!)

But years pass, and we get over it, and now I can’t really think about those books without scoffing over the more ridiculous elements, like…

  • Thinking that being a boy’s special brand of heroin is romantic
  • The whole sleep-stalking thing
  • “Vegetarian” vampires. Please
  • The idea that Bella would be safest in her hometown because that’s the last place the murderous vampire who wants to kill her would expect her to go. Because he assumes she’s not a dumb-ass? I mean, there’s literally an entire world of other places to hide. This never made the slightest bit of sense to me.
  • Bella falling down
  • Bella being carried by people all the time
  • Vampire baseball
  • Sparkles

And that’s really just book 1.

Vampire baseball. Sorry, just had to say it again.

So do we need Midnight Sun? I’ll tell you, I’m friends with some really smart and amazing and well-read women who were huge fans of the series and who are over the moon about Midnight Sun being released. Now, do any teens actually still read the Twilight books? No idea. But the people who were hooked way back when? I have a feeling enough will be devouring Midnight Sun to put it squarely on all the bestseller lists. Whether they admit to reading it or not is a different question.

As for me? Well…

I did read the gender-swapped version of Twilight that came out in 2015 (Life and Death — my review is here)… and I didn’t actually hate it. I borrowed it from the library, read it out of curiosity, and was amused. It was fine.

So yeah, I’ll probably read Midnight Sun. Again, out of curiosity mostly. Will it be awful? Maybe. Will Edward’s stalkeriness and Bella’s ridiculousness still make me cringe? Oh, undoubtedly.

But I kind of need it in my life anyway. I’m not sure that I’ll buy it. (But probably yes.) And maybe I’ll just read it ironically (or at least, that’s what I’ll claim.)

Midnight Sun will be released August 4, 2020. Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?

Come on, this is a safe space. You can admit it.