Yes, I finally finished reading the Twilight series. I am the only person on the planet who it took longer than two weeks to read the four books in this vampire/teenager saga. It took me nearly five months! That says less about the entertainment value of the books, and more about my lack of time to read. Overall, I was satisfied by this final installment. I’ll try to collect my thoughts in an organized fashion, which may be hard to do since I have to think back over the 6 weeks that it took me to read Breaking Dawn. And read on at your own risk: discussion of spoilerish plot points ahead!
Part One of the story begins as Bella and Edward are preparing for their wedding, and Jacob is running endlessly through the woods of Canada in his wolf form – his coping technique for losing Bella to Edward for good. There is a good amount of hoopla surrounding the wedding, and Jacob even makes an appearance to make peace with the new Mr. and Mrs. Cullen. Then things get a little odd, as Bella and Edward go on their honeymoon to a remote island beach house, where they destroy a feather bed and a few other items in the process of making their union complete. In the tradition of books about sexually active teens, it isn’t long before Bella is ravenously hungry, tired, and a little nauseous, the result of being impregnated by a vampire. Bella is more excited about bringing this child into the world than Edward, and Part One of Breaking Dawn ends with her secretly calling Rosalie for help when she realizes Edward intends to take her home and have Carlisle “get rid of” the baby.
Part Two is narrated by Jacob. It takes us through the splitting of the wolf pack, Jacob’s new status as Alpha, Bella’s difficult pregnancy, and Renesmee’s gory birth.
Part Three is once again narrated by Bella and begins with a detailed account of her transformation into a vampire, followed by her process of adjusting to her newfound abilities and heightened senses. The whole family also gets to know and love Renesmee more. Things take a downturn when Alice has a troubling vision of the Volturi coming to Forks with the intent to destroy the Cullen clan. Suddenly Alice and Jasper leave town, and the others are left there to build an army of witnesses, in hopes that they can convince the Volturi of their innocence. The remainder of the book plays out like a League of Supervamps, as the Cullens and their friends and acquaintances prepare for the impending battle. In the end, everything works out in their favor and they live happily ever after.
As a series targeted at young adults/teens, I’m not too surprised that it ended so nice and neat. I would much rather there have been some serious consequences for the gang to deal with after all the buildup to their confrontation with the Volturi. Instead, we got a “Um, we changed our mind. See ya” from the creepy, cloaked ancient ones, and a group hug and sigh of relief from Bella and her “always on the verge of, but never really in danger” family of werewolves, vampires, and half breeds.
- The Structure – I always enjoy a book that is split into parts, since it lends a greater air of closure and significance to events along the way. In this case, Bella’s pregnancy, and then Renesmee’s birth, were the pivotal plot points at the end of Book 1 and Book 2. In each case, we didn’t know where in the world things were headed. I must say, I enjoyed Jacob as narrator, especially because it gave me a break from Bella’s constant worrying about her life and future as a vampire, and incessant gushing about Edward’s beautiful face and perfect body. It was nice to have a different perspective on things. In looking at my summary of the book, it seems like not much happened in Book Two. I suppose its purpose was to create tension leading up to Bella’s transformation and the birth of the half human/half vampire child. It succeeded on both of those purposes, and it also showed the evolving relationship between the Cullens and the Pack. I enjoyed seeing Jacob and Edward’s relationship go from hostile to friendly to familial over the course of the book.
- The Big Ticket – Bella becoming a vampire was the moment we had all been waiting for and wondering about since the first time she and Edward discussed it in Twilight. I think Stephenie Meyer did an admirable job of conveying the excruciating pain of the transformation, as Bella slipped in and out of consciousness and had to use mental control to deal with the unbearable sensations. Meyer did stretch a bit, though, when it came to the metaphors and analogies for the pain (there are only so many ways to say “the fire blazed hotter”). But I must say, I was fascinated by Bella’s recounting of the experience.
- Bella as a Vampire – The book was a bit of a letdown in this department. Where was the period of adjustment? The uncontrollable blood lust? The time in solitary confinement so she wouldn’t kill Charlie or someone else she cared about? I guess Meyer decided that the book would be too long if she had to deal with all those pesky little things. So instead, we had Bella becoming a skilled hunter after one training session with Edward, and with only one little slip up when she smelled a human in the forest. Otherwise, she had a breezy adjustment to her eternal life as a vampire. In fact, other than her vampire abilities, her living conditions weren’t too different from when she was human. Her acquired vampire traits included heightened senses, a greater love and passion for Edward, a beautiful child, the ability to protect herself and others from harm, and super self control. Quite a convenient set of characteristics for a newborn, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. It’s a good thing that vampires aren’t real, though, because this book would have teenage girls lining up to get bitten so they, too, could have a perfect, blissful ever after of endless lovemaking and general merriment.
- Jacob’s Happy Ending – I grew to like Jacob more and more as the series advanced, so I was happy that he wasn’t left wandering the forest, dejected by Bella. Instead, he imprinted on Renesmee, the child of his former supposed true love. That gets a little icky, but since the child ages so quickly and will stop aging when she reaches Jacob’s age, I suppose it’s all good. I missed the hints about Jacob imprinting on Nessie. I didn’t figure it out until way after I would have expected myself to. I was too hung up on the (incorrect) idea that Nessie had evil mind control powers like Jasmine on the tv show Angel. Thankfully I was wrong, since it would have been unsettling to see a child manipulate her family and set out on a path of destruction. I would have been happy with an ending that had Jacob and Renesmee being some of the only survivors of the confrontation with the Volturi. They could have left Forks and had a happy life in a new place. Strangely enough, I think Jacob would have been one of the most difficult characters to see die in the book. I’m glad he survived. He was a likable guy – surprising, after his annoying presence in Twilight and the first half of New Moon.
- The Return of Alice and Jasper – I figured Alice and Jasper had left for some reason other than to save themselves, especially when we found out they had gone to South America, where Bella had planned to go to do research about Renesmee. So, it was a satisfying moment when they made their triumphant appearance in the field, with proof that Nessie wasn’t a threat to the vampire way of life. How interesting, that there were others like her. Alice and Jasper were two of the most interesting Cullens, along with Carlilse and Edward, of course, so it was nice to welcome them back.
- The Anti-climatic Climax – I found the build up to the show down with the Volturi pretty riveting, but then there was a lot of talking, and the Volturi basically said “never mind” and headed back to Italy. When the book just ended all nice and neat, I just closed it and went, “huh.” There would have been a stronger, more lasting impression if there had been some madness and mayhem. There is more power in a story in which people have to lose something to gain something else. What if one of the Cullens, perhaps Carlilse, had sacrificed himself, to protect the rest of the family and their way of life. It would have been really sad, but the others’ survival would have meant more then. Some scenarios would have been taking it too far. For example, having Nessie die would have been too tragic. There would have been nothing for Bella, Edward, and Jacob to look forward to, and it would have meant total defeat at the hands of the Volturi. What if a battle had ensued, and the Cullens had won? That would still have been a happy ending, with vampires worldwide looking forward to a new existence free from the tyranny of this ancient group, but there would have been losses along the way. This would also have given Bella a true chance to shine as a warrior, truly showing her transformation from the clumsy, unconfident girl in Twilight, to the beautiful, coordinated, powerful woman in Breaking Dawn. She was still able to prove her worth as a defensive hero, using her shield to prevent the Volturi from gaining a pre-battle upper hand, but it lacked the punch that a full-fledged battle situation would have provided.
- Overall Assessment – So, yes, I had a few complaints about Breaking Dawn. Overall, though, I would say that I liked the book. It felt more “grown up” than the other three, so I found less juvenile stuff to be annoyed by. Instead of dealing with themes like high school crushes, gossip, college and career choices, etc., Breaking Dawn delved into issues like a mother’s love for her child, a family’s unwavering loyalty to each other, standing up for what is right, etc. As for the issue of the uber-happy ending, what more should we have expected from a series for young adults? Can you imagine the universal uproar if one of the beloved Cullens had been killed, or the last page had left things on a somber note? No wonder Meyer chose the easy path, the nicely packaged “happily ever after” ending for Edward, Bella, and everyone else. Well, except for poor, unintentionally traitorous Irina, who was obliterated by the Volturi.
- Ranking the Books – Thinking back on the entire series, here are the books in order from my favorite to least favorite: Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, Twilight, New Moon. So I guess the series ended on a high note for me. My main complaint about New Moon was that nothing happened. It, too, had an anticlimactic ending, with Bella’s trip to rescue Edward from the Volturi ending with another “nevermind” from that supposedly to be feared group. The difference in that book, though, was that nothing else really happened in the hundreds of pages before that, whereas in Breaking Dawn, there was plenty of action, excitement, intrigue, and suspense. Thanks for this interesting journey, Stephenie Meyer!