Possible spoilers ahead.
Perhaps the best metaphor for how strange 2020 has been is the fact that a new Twilight book was released in the midst of everything else going on. Oddly enough, Twilight has been a topic of conversation (particularly the online sort) throughout our quarantine, even before Midnight Sun’s release was announced in May. The resurgence might have to do with the entire movie series being loaded onto Amazon Prime Video, or just our collective mind-losing.
Either way, after 12 years of waiting, Midnight Sun is finally available to tell Edward’s side of the original Twilight story — that is, including the chapters not leaked in 2008 that led to the book being put indefinitely on hold. Those chapters sat on Stephenie Meyer’s website for a while (which I did read, because who thought we would ever see this day? I didn’t).
This is just a side note from me that has nothing to do with anything, but there was a funny theory on Tumblr forever ago that said Edward Cullen himself, Robert Pattinson, had a hand in leaking the chapters to compromise any possibility of him having to play Edward again. Not that I believe that, but a small clown part of my brain wants to.
[bf_image id="qexa94-74hjeo-1snaes"] Before I begin, I want to mention that I do not condone the alleged acts on Stephenie Meyer’s part that recently surfaced to limit diversity in the Twilight films, nor any negative attention the Quileute Tribe has received as a result of their depiction in the saga. The Quileute Tribe is currently raising funds to move to higher ground, as they reside in a tsunami zone. I donated approximately the amount that my copy of Midnight Sun cost, and I highly encourage anyone else who purchased a copy to consider donating as well, within what you can provide.
As a fair warning, this will be both a spoiler-free and spoiler-y review. Meaning, I won’t be spoiling anything you wouldn’t already know from Twilight, but if you happen to be a person who has never read the first Twilight book and managed to accidentally end up here, then I suggest clicking away. Unless you don’t care about it either way, then by all means, join me.
It seemed to be that no one was only vaguely aware of what Midnight Sun was; you were either jumping for joy at its release or had no idea what it meant. For those who have stumbled here confused as to what it is in the first place, it’s the first Twilight book from Edward’s (the vampire) point of view. That’s literally it.
I'm a pretty casual Twilight fan, as I was on the younger side when it was originally relevant (I was 11 when the last film came out). I read the series in sixth grade as a result of hype — not to see what was so good about it, but to see what could be so bad. Turns out, I found answers to both in the first book, which I tore through in only a couple of sittings. It's an enjoyable read for some mindless fun, so long as you don’t try to apply any critical thinking (or try to imagine any of Edward’s actions in real life, which would be weird as all hell). To revisit that feeling of reading this story for the first time was exactly the sort of experience I needed to brighten up the COVID-19 era a bit.
This book was exactly what I expected it to be, if just a smidge darker. My expectations were not blown out of the water, but then again, I didn’t go in thinking they would be. Edward Cullen’s head is an interesting place to be, specifically in this book, when Bella is shrouded in innocence that we got to experience the first time around. Where Bella’s head is open and even, Edward’s is arbitrary and egocentric. Some scenes that were in the first book seemed completely foreign in this one, being seen through different eyes. Interestingly, there were a few points where Edward and Bella read situations so differently that I wondered how they didn’t argue more often.
Despite my interest in reading scenes from the original book from Edward’s point of view, my favorite scenes were the new ones we hadn’t seen. Frankly, I don't have an issue at all with Edward, but he's my least-favorite vampire in the Cullen clan. This has nothing to do with him as a character, but just that I find all the others more interesting, Alice specifically. Edward’s telepathy gift giving them all an internal monologue we got to see was pleasing, especially when reading about Rosalie’s resentment towards Bella.
On that note, the book does a good job of filling in the intentions behind Edward’s actions while also not completely justifying them. I always found Edward to just be plain weird (and don’t get me wrong, I was Team Edward all the way through), but we get to understand some of the methods behind his madness while not completely excusing them for just how creepy they were. But, as we know from the original book, Bella dug it, so there was truly a match there.
I don't like this book better than Twilight. It's not even equal in my head. The book was paced far slower than Twilight, and I even found myself sort of zoning out and having to reread a sentence or two (Edward is pretty emo and doesn’t shy away from reminding you of it). It wasn’t as lively (which I guess makes sense, given Edward is dead), making it a more serious and concentrating read than its 2005 counterpart. Some of the “mindless fun” I mentioned before was dulled in this light.
I think my biggest complaint, which is something I probably should have expected but didn’t, was how much of the “fantasy” this book takes away. Bella is notoriously a mundane character. Most girls could pick out some feature of hers that they saw in themselves, especially if they had low self-esteem (which, admittedly, I latched onto myself growing up). The idea of a girl who thought of herself as ordinary (and was just that) who could attract someone who saw something in them that they didn’t in themselves is the true dream of young Twilight fans.
To read it from Edward’s point of view was going to be different from the start, but it altered the trajectory of Bella’s character a bit. It wasn’t that Edward took interest in what Bella was telling us, it was what she wasn’t telling us (to save the spoiler-free description, I won’t give specifics). While Twilight told us you didn’t necessarily have to be outstanding in any way to get your own story worth telling, Midnight Sun told the opposite. But, then again, Edward is pretty judgmental, and maybe from another set of eyes, Jessica is just as worthy of her own love story.
I must say before I close that I can only imagine what going back to writing that old and not being able to change much of anything must’ve been like. I can barely read my writing from a year ago. Luckily, Meyer has strayed from the word “grimace,” as I don’t recall seeing much of it at all, which was one of the things I remember vividly about reading these books for the first time. We love development.
Don’t let it be said that I didn’t enjoy Midnight Sun. I sucked the book down quickly and relished every bloody second. It was a ride from start to finish, and it made me very happy to step back into this world for a few hours, even with more critical eyes than my sixth-grade self had. Overall, I would give this book 3.5/5 stars, and would only recommend it to readers who were already into Twilight beforehand. The book relies on you having already read at least the first book (some things make more sense if you have read them all), and I can’t see how it would be interesting enough to a newcomer to draw them in and hold their attention. But, if you are like me and grew up with Twilight in your peripheral at all times (and enjoyed the series yourself), then it would be worth a read. Midnight Sun will add some much-needed nostalgia to your summer.