Midnight Sun

Cover of the book Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

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Book Review

Midnight Sun is a companion book to the original Twilight trilogy by author Stephenie Meyer. This book revisits everything in 2005’s Twilight, showing us the same events from vampire heartthrob Edward Cullen’s perspective, including Edward and Bella’s slowly building relationship, their attempts to keep intensely passionate feelings in check and the deadly threat from another vampire that shows up at the end of the book.

The tale can be easily seen to be an allegorical examination of struggles a typical teen might have: sexual tensions and temptations, feelings of jealousy and earnest efforts toward abstinence. There are also very strong notes here about the power of family bonds and the blessings of adoption.

Edward talks at length, for instance, about his history and the loving choices that his adoptive vampire “parents” made to give him a sense of grounding and a family to help him through the most difficult and vulnerable parts of his long life. And we see those family members make personal sacrifices to aid Edward, even when they don’t always agree with his choices. Now, it’s all played out in a broadly fantastic setting of “eternal” life, super-strength and an ever-hovering threat of gruesome savagery; but the close ties, the sacrifices and the love of the portrayed relationships still ring true.

Plot Summary

Isabella “Bella” Swan has just moved into the little town of Forks, Washington. It’s an unwanted change from her perspective. But she’s agreed to live with her divorced, police chief dad, Charlie, since her mom just remarried and will be traveling.

Her arrival, however, causes quite a stir at Forks High School. For one thing, cute, if slightly clumsy, new girls are rare in that neck of the woods. But the major and totally unexpected change that nearly everyone notices is the fact that the normally aloof, decidedly unapproachable and eerily beautiful Cullen siblings—Alice, Edward, Emmet, Rosalie and Jacob—suddenly sit up and take notice, too.

Well, at least the brutally handsome Edward does. And only his family members know just how dangerous that might be.

What teen Bella doesn’t realize as she peeks furtively at the handsome guy is that Edward and the whole Cullen clan are vampires. And the truth is, he doesn’t take notice of her because of her pretty face or sweet personality. (He actually initially thinks her rather plain.) Instead, Edward happens to have a very special gift that allows him to read human minds. And this new girl eludes that ability. She is the only person he’s ever encountered who is a completely closed book. On top of that, when they sit together in class, this Bella’s scent nearly drives him into a bloodthirsty frenzy.

He’s never smelled blood so appealing as hers: so tantalizing, so completely overpowering. In fact, things get perilously close to a school full of teens being slaughtered by a lightning quick and incredibly powerful vampire with an overwhelming lust for Bella’s particularly sweet strain of blood.

But there’s something else about this teenage girl that takes Edward by surprise. After steeling himself against what his ravenous instincts demand, after using every ounce of willpower he has to resist, Edward realizes that Bella Swan is more than just a potentially sumptuous meal. She’s truthfully unlike anyone he’s ever met. There’s something about the way she thinks, the choices she makes, the unexpected things she says, that blindsides him. They remind him of his lost humanity. And Bella is really quite indescribably lovely, when you look closely. Edward finds that he’s drawn to this human in ways he’s never experienced before.

Bella’s quite drawn too. And their connection seems inevitable.

The problem for Edward is, he can’t pull himself away from her. But as the deadly beast he knows himself to be, he can’t possibly be with her, either.

Is there any way to keep this sweet and wonderful girl named Bella from a horribly gruesome fate?

 

Christian Beliefs

Edward repeatedly notes that someone as good as Bella, but as accident-prone as she is, deserves to have a guardian angel. At one point when Bella is badly hurt, an anguished Edward goes into a hospital chapel and fervently prays to “her God” for her wellbeing. He blames himself for her injuries, even though he was the one who saved her life. He also prays that “he—or she, or it—would help me protect Bella from myself.”

Other Belief Systems

As Edward is drawn to Bella, he repeatedly compares her to Persephone of Greek mythology, who is tricked and seduced by Hades, the god of the Underworld. And, of course, Edward sees himself in a comparable light to Hades.

The fictional vampire life is spelled out in much detail, with all its physical advantages and all its spiritual and human disadvantages. The book equates the life of a vampire to a spiritual death that steals away the normal joys of human life. And some of the vampire characters—for all of their supernatural gifts—greatly lament that loss.

Authority Roles

Bella’s father, Charlie, is depicted as well-meaning but somewhat absentminded and clueless regarding his daughter’s budding romantic interest in Edward. 

Profanity & Violence

The words “d–n,” “d–mit” and “jacka–” all make an appearance two or three times each in this 600-plus page book.

Being a vampire novel, you can definitely expect that there are violent things afoot as well. When Edward first meets Bella her scent alone drives him nearly crazy, causing a fiery burning that swells in his throat and lungs after a mere whiff of her. He describes at length his desire to rampage and his enraged plans to “snap necks” and rip “flesh from bone” to keep the Cullen secret in the dark while sating his overpowering savage bloodlust.

Edward barely keeps himself from following through, but eventually he grows to control the urges unleashed within him by Bella’s nearness. For much of the book, however, we experience Edward’s ongoing mental torments—near-torturous physical feelings he endures in order to stay near the woman he loves.

There are other moments where Edward’s rage leads him to think of killing and tearing human flesh. For example, at one point, men corner Bella in an alleyway with the intent of raping and savaging her in various cruel ways. Edward reads the mens’ ugly mental conversations (as do we) and weaves mental images of his own, focused on ripping the men to pieces in turn. This version of the scene (as compared to the one portrayed in Twilight) becomes much more intense and visceral when seen through Edward’s eyes. (Once again, though, his concern for Bella helps him step away from the massacre he’s so strongly tempted to unleash.)

In another sequence, a vampire hunter sets its sights on Bella and, in this case, the creature follows through. Bella is bashed, torn, punctured and smashed around a small room full of mirrors during an agonizing scene. The book describes the bloody nature of her wounds as someone rushes to her aid. She writhes in excruciating pain from a venom bite. We also see a short sequence of how rescuers deal with her attacker. We’re told that a vampire can only die if it’s torn limb-from-limb with the resulting pieces being burned, and it’s implied that that is exactly what happens. 

During memories of his early life as a newly “turned” vampire, Edward remembers hunting and killing foul-minded evil humans as part of his hunting regimen. (However, the members of the Cullen family classify themselves as “vegetarian” vampires, meaning that the only hunt animals and abstain from human blood. And Edward states clearly that even those wicked lives he once took still weigh heavily on his conscience.) There are other human situations, such as a small car crash, that leave some teens cut and bleeding. And Bella suffers some moments of pain even in the most careful moments with Edward because of his increased strength.

It should also be noted, that author Stephenie Meyer shows restraint in all of the scenes listed above. They are certainly bloody, or in some cases implied to be, but they are never spelled out in the goriest manner.

 

Sexual Content

The attraction between Edward and Bella is both emotional and physical. The book doesn’t dwell on sexuality or the physical beauty of characters—except when Edward reads minds and we hear how some women, young and old, openly lust after the handsome male vampires in their minds—but it does speak of the otherworldly beauty of all vampires.

“I’m the world’s most dangerous predator,” Edward tells Bella. “Everything about me invites you in: my voice, my face, even my smell.”

Bella and Edward eventually kiss, and he learns to overcome his beastly urges enough to touch her face and hands. Edward refuses to even consider anything beyond that because of his fear that he might hurt her if he grew too excited. But this book also makes Edward’s inner thoughts part of the attraction equation, which adds a rougher male perspective to the originally teen girl-focused story.

Meyer uses Edward’s innate thirst for Bella’s intoxicating blood as a symbolic parallel to physical lust, especially emphasizing the fact that it’s coming from a male point of view. “I know love and lust don’t always keep the same company,” Edward notes. Edward also thinks of his longing to control and consume the object of his desire and is repeatedly wracked with guilt over his feelings, even though he never takes the destructive or sexual actions action he fears he might.

 

Discussion Topics

Is violence in a book different from violent images depicted on a movie screen? Can violence and dark spirituality be used to illustrate a good point about the world we live in or the emotions we feel? How far should it go?

How did you feel about the dark side of Edward’s nature? Do his thoughts reflect yours in some way? When he was wrestling with the idea of brutal vengeance on those who attacked Bella what did you want him to do? What would you do?

What do you think the book is saying about how young people communicate? Do you think this book had something to say about our spiritual lives?

Do you think the choices we make when we’re attracted to someone have an impact on our lives? How do you think our sexual choices affect a romantic relationship? Does exercising restraint in that area make a positive difference?

Do you think we can be destined to be good or to be evil? How is temptation a part of real life, and what kinds of things should we do to keep it at bay?

What do you think this book says about adoption?

Additional Comments

There are drugs used on patients by Edward’s father Carlisle, who’s a doctor. He gives Bella some morphine after she’s been attacked and badly hurt, for instance. A nurse also injects a sleeping agent into Bella’s IV.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose.

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