When 17-year-old Bella Swan moves to her dad’s home in perpetually-cloudy Forks, Wash., she has little hope of enjoying her new life. Her father, Charlie, is the small town’s police chief. He lives as a resigned bachelor in the same house he owned during his brief marriage to Bella’s mom. Bella enrolls in the high school and makes some new acquaintances. While sitting with them in the cafeteria, she spots a group of five strange and incredibly beautiful people and learns that they are the Cullens. Two sets of them (Alice and Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie) are couples, but they’re all in the same family, adopted by the town’s young doctor. They keep to themselves. Bella later shares a lab table with the fifth member of the group, named Edward. She’s taken aback by his hostile behavior toward her. He sits far away from her and casts searing glances in her direction. She later sees him in the office trying to change his schedule to avoid her. She wonders what could make him hate her so much.
When icy weather hits, Bella’s truck and another student’s car collide in the school parking lot. Edward, whom Bella had seen standing far away, is suddenly at her side and saves her life by holding back the other car. She’s perplexed by the deep hand indentions he’s left in the vehicle. He’s reticent when she asks how he got to her so fast and had the strength to save her. He does, however, begin to act more friendly toward her at school. Through their cryptic banter in class, Bella becomes more and more attracted to the pale, gorgeous boy whose eyes “smolder” and drive her wild.
On a day trip with other school friends, Bella runs into an old acquaintance who lives on the Indian reservation. Jacob Black, a few years younger than Bella, is eager to impress and reveals classified information about the Cullens when Bella prods him. Jacob explains that the ancestors of his tribe have a territorial agreement with the Cullens, as the Cullens and other “cold ones” are their mortal enemies. Back home on the Internet, Bella further investigates Jacob’s claims and discovers Edward’s chilling secret: He and his family are vampires.
Bella knows she should be more fearful, but Edward’s increasing attention, protective nature and passionate gazes have left her entranced. Bella travels to a larger city with two girls from school to help them shop for prom dresses. When she gets separated from her friends, a group of four men surround her in a dark alley. Just in time, Edward appears and saves her. She’s stunned by his intense anger and often witnesses it in the days thereafter. He takes her to dinner and calms down before driving her back to Forks.
Edward warns her that he’s dangerous and that she should stay away from him. Thoroughly smitten, Bella repeatedly tells him (and herself) she doesn’t care what happens to her. No fate could be worse than being separated from him. Edward takes Bella to a remote area in the forest, allowing her to see how his skin glows in the sunlight. The glow is just one of the reasons Edward and his “family” (the others in his vampire coven) must stay in places like Forks where there’s significant cloud cover. Edward explains that his family attempts to be civilized, eating only animals and not people (though it is like subsisting on a diet of tofu and soy milk). Bella’s scent is so tantalizing to Edward, he says she’s like a drug to him. The same urges that cause him to want to devour her (literally) also drive him to protect and love her. He’s tormented, knowing he should stay away from her for her own safety but feeling he can’t bear to be without her.
Edward takes Bella home to meet his family. Most of the clan welcomes her, though Rosalie feels Bella is a threat to their life in Forks. Alice foresees a thunderstorm, and the vampires make a plan to play baseball high in the forest. When Bella joins them, she understands why loud peals of thunder are necessary to cover up their powerful hits. In mid-game, the family catches the scent of other vampires. There isn’t time to get Bella out of the area, so they try their best to cover her scent as they talk to the new vampires Laurent, James and James’ mate, Victoria. But James, a tracker, quickly picks up Bella’s scent. When the two vampire clans part ways, Edward tells Bella he’s read James’ thoughts. James will stop at nothing to devour her.
Alice and Jasper go with Bella to her home, where she quickly packs and lies to her dad, telling him she can no longer live in Forks. They drive her to Phoenix while Edward and the others protect her father and track James. Alice, Jasper and Bella hole up in a Phoenix hotel and wait for directions from the others. One morning, Bella receives a call. James is on the other end of the line, telling her he has her mother. He orders her to pretend she’s talking to her mom so the vampires won’t catch on. James directs Bella to lose Alice and Jasper. She gets away from them in the airport where they’re supposed to pick up Edward. James directs her to the dance studio she attended as a child. When she arrives, she realized James has tricked her. Her mother’s voice on the phone was from an old videotape. James brutally attacks Bella. When she’s nearly lost consciousness, she hears Edward’s voice. He and the rest of his family have arrived to kill James. It’s up to Edward to suck the poison out of Bella’s blood without killing her or turning her into a vampire. Though it takes every ounce of self-control he has, Edward manages to save Bella’s life.
The Cullens help Bella make up a detailed story to calm her parents. She returns to Forks to recover. Edward tricks her into getting dressed up, leg cast and all, to go with him to the prom. She begs him to change her into a vampire so they can always be together, but he refuses.