Thursday, September 18, 2008

Breaking Dawn – review

Author: Stephanie Meyer

First Published: 2008

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: “When you loved the one that was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you had to give, how could you not give it? If it was someone you truly loved?

“To be irrevocably in love with a vampire is both fantasy and nightmare woven into a dangerously heightened reality for Bella Swan. Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to werewolf Jacob Black, she has endured a tumultuous year of temptation, loss and strife to reach the ultimate turning point. Her imminent choice to either join the dark but seductive world of immortals or pursue a fully human life has become the thread from which the fate of two tribes hangs.

“Now that Bella has made her decision, a startling chain of unprecedented events is about to unfold with potentially devastating and unfathomable consequences. Just when the frayed strands of Bella’s life – first discovered in Twilight, then scattered and torn in New Moon and Eclipse - seem ready to heal and knit together, could they be destroyed… forever?

The review: This is the final book, allegedly at least, in Bella Swan’s saga. The series, as many will know, are teen romance but – as a middle aged cynic – I still get much out of them. First and foremost because they are well written books – Meyers pulls a great character together.

To be honest, when you devour a 754 page novel in a few short days the book has to be well written (even if it is not great literature) and nothing can take away from that. However, before reading this I heard a lot of criticism of the book and I wish to look at that criticism and will heavily spoil some plot points in the process.

I heard criticism of the fact that the much vaunted culmination of Bella and Edward’s romance – the sex, not the wedding – was glossed over. To be fair this was for a teen audience and so what would you expect. It was kind of nice to read something where the sex plays an intrinsic part of the plot and yet is not overtly presented – it makes a change from the more explicit material out there (including my own novel).

The result of this coupling is the discovery (to everyone’s shock) that vampires and humans can breed. I then heard criticism that Bella’s decision to keep the child betrayed Meyer’s own religious beliefs; specifically that it was blatantly pro-life. Firstly, the decision was in total keeping with the character of Bella as developed over many a page and secondly the character made a choice – believe it or not that is as much a pro-choice decision as a pro-life decision and I, in no way, found the plot direction preachy. To be honest, the first paragraph of the blurb seemed preachier than the novel itself.

I heard criticism that the idea that Jacob the werewolf would bond (the werewolves are not actually werewolves, the book reveals to us at the end, but shapeshifters who are unrelated to actual werewolves. However they do bond with a single mate and it is on a mystical level) with the baby was too convenient. Actually it made definite sense, plot and character wise. Truthfully it was the obvious direction to go but not a daring direction to go. Throwing a doomed love curve ball followed by Bella’s lover killing her best friend, however, was not what Meyer had in mind and we have to respect that.

Finally I heard the suggestion that the book descended into soap opera. I don’t really think that was the case. The book was geared towards a happily ever after, given the target audience that was understandable. I don’t know if that equates to soap opera; saccharine, yes, and far too sickly if faced too often. Certainly not the normal dark doom and gloom I prefer to immerse myself in but not actually soap opera. Consider the way in which the pregnancy plot was handled in this, and the supernatural element and danger it presented, and compare it with the pregnancy plot in Danse Macabre - it is clear that Hamilton strayed into soap opera whereas Meyers avoided it.

These books are good books, in respect of their target audience, that chart the waters of teen confusions, first love and romance. They are light, in that respect, compared to the darker side of teen life, drawn in the simile of vampire lore, as portrayed in say Buffy the Vampire Slayer but they are fair for what they are aimed at – this as much as any of the others in the series.

6 out of 10.

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