Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer: Port Angeles (Ch. 9)

Is it read-worth? It’s official. You should just throw this book away. I always hate the Port Angeles scene when I reread the Twilight series and I hate it equally as much in Midnight Sun. Stephanie Meyer should be ashamed of herself. Using sexual assault as a plot device and then ignoring all the ramifications of sexual assault is degrading to survivors. It demeans them. If you’re going to write about a sexual assault scene then fully cover the impact that that scene should have. Don’t just completely drop the ball.

Photo: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers sourced on the Den of Geek Blog

SPOILERS: Ah, my least favorite chapter so far. I was not looking forward to this one and I was right to dread it. Chapter nine delves into Bella’s trip to Port Angeles where she is almost sexually assaulted by a gang of men. She is almost gang raped. And, instead of it being processed as a traumatic event, Stephanie Meyer simply uses this event as a plot device to bring Edward and Bella closer together. It is horrifying. It is triggering. It is just deeply, deeply unfortunate.

Stephanie Meyer didn’t use her platform to shine a light on victims of sexual assault, or give advice on how to handle shock and trauma. No, she used the idea of violent rape to bring her two main characters closer together. It is deeply degrading to me, as a survivor of sexual assault, to have this event be handled so poorly. It should not have been included in the book at all, not if Meyer wasn’t willing to start a larger discussion about sexual assault and it’s consequences. Not if she didn’t want to provide survivors with resources to recover with. Not if she didn’t want to follow up with anything related to that scene. She didn’t. She dropped the ball completely.

I just hate it, plain and simple. 

I hate it. 

It’s everything wrong with Twilight summarized in a single chapter. Bad writing, without a doubt. Edward’s internal dialogue is just ridiculous half the time. He is extremely melodramatic. It plays into Bella’s identity as only really being a damsel in distress in need of saving. I hate that. Bella could be so much more than that. And it uses a terrifying life event as a ploy just to completely ignore it and move onto a completely unrelated topic. It’s horrible. The whole chapter is horrible. 

We should not read about an almost sexual assault just to ignore it and talk about how cool Edward is. We should be talking about the almost sexual assault. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hated this chapter.

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer: Edward and Joe (Ch. 6 – 8)

Is it read-worth? I mean these chapters were somewhat better than the previous ones. I wouldn’t dare to call them amazing, but they didn’t make me cringe quite as much. They were bearable. Plus they were slightly less offensive than the previous segway into stalking and obsession were. Dare I say they were read-worth? Maybe for the most die-hard Twilight fans, but even that’s a bit of a stretch. They’re better, but still not good.

Photo: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers sourced on the Den of Geek Blog

SPOILER ALERTS: This contains spoilers for both Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer and You by Caroline Kepnes.

Does anyone else get total You vibes from Midnight Sun? I don’t think I ever realized just how similar Joe and Edward are until I started reading chapter 8. I could almost believe that You started out as a fan-fiction of Twilight, like so many other books about creepy, unhealthy relationships with abusive men do. The parallels between the two are plentiful. Even Joe and Edward’s personalities are, at their core, very similar. They both simultaneously seem to see themselves as heroes and villains. They are monsters in love with the perfect girl who they must protect at all costs, even the cost of hurting them themselves. They’re both obsessive, believe that their thoughts have more intrinsic value than the people around them, and, with the release of Midnight Sun, it is overwhelmingly obvious how similar their internal dialogue is. It’s actually insane to think about. If I squint at them from far away, I might just think they were the same person.

Of course, there is much more honesty in You than in Midnight Sun. Spoiler alert: You tells the story of an abusive man who stalks and kills his romantic interest. She doesn’t live up to his high expectations. The book is creepy and yet utterly captivating. The author, Caroline Kepnes, does not try to portray Joe as anything other than he is. Even as Joe’s internal dialogue tries to defend his stalking and other actions as romantic and loving, it is obvious that Kepnes believes they’re anything but. I loved it. 

Unfortunately, Meyer does not seem to agree when it comes to her own character. Edward’s stalking and his other abusive behavior are excused as romantic. Even in later books, when Edward refuses to let Bella see her close friend, Jacob Black, that is excused as Edward being overprotecting of the love of his life. It isn’t called out for being abusive behavior. It isn’t labelled unhealthy.

Even as Edward calls himself an obsessive weirdo and a stalker, it’s obvious that Meyer thinks his behavior is okay. No one in the books question it. Even the ones who know about him watching Bella sleep seem to excuse the behavior completely. There’s nothing wrong with him stalking Bella. She’s just a fragile human girl. She needs it. I was expecting at least one person, Rosalie perhaps, to call him out on it, but they never did. They just made comments about him missing fun events to sit in the bedroom of a teenage girl and watch her sleep without her knowledge or consent.

Yuck.

When thinking about the two characters, it is also strange to think that many readers read about this behavior (or watch it on the television screen) and are attracted to Edward and Joe. Many young women absolutely love them. They think they’re sexy. They find their behavior appealing. They wonder if they will ever have a man “love them so much” that they, too, will be stalked and controlled by them. What is it about abusive men that attract young women? Is it the fact that books like Midnight Sun make this behavior out to sound like the ideal relationship instead of the emotional prison that it is?

Personally, I think it is. Young women are being taught to think that this is how men act when they love you. It’s getting better with time, but many women would still rather seek out men who exhibit these unhealthy patterns of behavior than a healthy, stable partner who respects them and their space. Not all women, probably not even most, do this. But some do. And that’s an issue, not an excuse for a romance novel.

I really want books to start being accountable for the ideas they spread, to be honest. Not to the point where legal action should be taken or anything, but just personal responsibility. Disclaimers, possibly. Like it’s one thing to write books like Midnight Sun, it’s another to act like they’re love stories. I want to see ‘THIS ISN’T ROMANTIC. IF YOUR PARTNER ACTS LIKE EDWARD, THEY NEED THERAPY AND YOU NEED A HEALTHIER PARTNER AND RELATIONSHIP. WATCH OUT FOR THE WARNING SIGNS. PROTECT YOURSELF.’ at the end of Midnight Sun. I don’t think I will though. Maybe one day. 

But those are just my thoughts on one tiny itty bitty little scene in the book. There were other scenes in chapters 6 through 8. So maybe I should talk about those too from beginning to end. 

And chapter six did start off relatively okay. I think Edward’s realization that Bella is clumsy was supposed to be a chink in her armor, a way to see past the perfection he described earlier. It didn’t necessarily come across like that all the way. I just think it was supposed to. He still thought her clumsiness was adorable. But it was the beginning of something, maybe? A little bit more realistic than his endless spiel about her selflessness and generosity and maturity? I don’t know. 

Side note: I do wonder when clumsy girls became more attractive than they used to be and if it directly relates to books like Twilight being released. I remember when I was very young that clumsiness was not an attractive trait. People would laugh at you. Now a lot of people, particularly men, seem to find it cute. Fine by me. I trip over everything.

I think in the case of Edward, Bella’s clumsiness plays directly into the hero part of his hero/villain complex. He feeds into feeling like a bad guy most of the time, but I also think he wants to feel like a good guy. Being able to quite literally catch Bella every time she falls would appeal to him. So I get it.  It was just something I found interesting about the beginning of this section of chapters.

During the blood drinking scene, I always find myself wondering if vampires still have a blood type. I always wondered that in the original book and I was hoping Edward’s thoughts would answer my question. Do vampires digest the blood that they drink and use it to produce their own blood? Or is it literally the blood they drink running through their veins? Is their blood venomous as in other vampire series? How does it all work? I want to know more.

I also found myself wondering, later on, about Edward’s understanding of human women. It is very, very, VERY strange that he has such a limited understanding of women considering he can hear all of their thoughts. It came as a surprise to him, when Bella and him were in the nurse’s office, that a speeding heart rate can be more than fear. The idea of her being attracted to him was shocking. Even as he constantly emphasizes how beautiful vampires are, he doesn’t seem to relate that to his own appearance. Edward always seems to believe that women fear him more than anything else.

That may be true, but doesn’t seem to be the case the majority of the time. Almost all the thoughts from the women near him relate to how attractive he is. It’s very strange that Edward can hear their extensive fantasies about him and can hear their thoughts about how attractive he is, but completely fails to recognize it as a pattern. He also fails to understand the outward signs of a woman being attracted to him. Even if he tried to tone most of those thoughts out, Edward should still have somewhat of a better understanding of women and romantic relationships than he does.

He should also have a more defined understanding of women considering the fact that Edward’s trait is mind reading because, in his mortal life, he was so empathetic and considerate of others. He paid attention to the people around him. He understood them. Did mind-reading really make him lose this trait completely? I personally see no evidence that he is empathetic anymore.

And, even if he wasn’t a mind reader, Edward could resort to normal human ways of understanding the people around him. There are countless movies and books on how to court someone. He could’ve read a how-to book for crying out loud. There are thousands. He has unlimited time to do so and seems to have an interest in learning. Why has he never researched human relationships? Why has he never seen a romance movie? If he and his family are so interested in acting human, why do they have absolutely no understanding about humans?

I mean honestly… Why is he so clueless about everything? He wasn’t born yesterday.

I did, however, enjoy the fact that Edward knows he’s clueless. I mean the boy is entirely incapable of reading body language. His social interactions are awkward and creepy. His behavior is unsettling. He cannot pick up on any social cues or hints. Seeing him admit that he had no idea how to court a woman was refreshing. Nothing had ever been more obvious! Stalking someone is not how you court them.

I also liked the fact that Edward could admit that he was a little bit out of date with those ideas, but I wish he had applied them to other parts of his life as well. Edward’s personal behavior is absolutely littered with outdated ideas of romance, obsessive behavior, and somewhat sexist views of women and female sexuality. He spends half the novel so far coming across as a mix of a stalker and a grumpy old man who refuses to understand or appreciate any modern ideas.

For example, when it comes to Bella, he seems to view her as a complete damsel in distress. He believes she is completely helpless. I don’t personally enjoy books that describe women as weak and helpless, and that perspective on Bella honestly hurts the book so much. I don’t want a weak, boring, hopeless woman that the main man needs to save every two seconds. I want her to be the hero too. His ideas about her and her ability to take care of herself are completely out of place from a modern perspective.

I find this strange from a literary perspective as well as a scientific. His ideas are just so outdated for a teenage boy to have and, physically, Edward is still a teenage boy. He was frozen in time at seventeen years old, not 90+. His brain should still be just as flexible and responsive to new ideas as it has ever been. Would he really have such a hard time seeing women as strong and independent people, fully able to care for themselves? Or would his brain be able to adapt to the traits of more modern women?

His perspective on female sexuality is similarly outdated. Any female sexual interest in him is met with disdain. He may find the idea that Bella finds him attractive appealing, but he seems to look down on anyone else that does the same. He doesn’t understand physical attraction in regards to how Rosalie and Emmett’s relationship works. He dismisses sexual interactions as a sin. He internally mocks those who are hurt by his lack of interest in them. He is supposed to be empathetic, not intentionally cruel and dismissive. I just don’t get it.

I just don’t get him.

I also don’t get why Meyer has such an obsession with her main female character, Bella, being “so different” than other girls. It bothered me in the previous chapters and it’s still bothering me now. Every interaction with Bella is littered with statements about how unlike normal human girls she is.

It particularly bothered me that he emphasized how nice it was that Bella doesn’t wear makeup. While it’s fine that Edward is more attracted to makeup free faces, girls don’t wear makeup just to impress the people around them. Makeup is a personal statement. It reflects who you are or who you want to be. Edward’s commentary on her makeup free face felt like more of an insult towards teenage girls who wear makeup than a compliment towards Bella. I’m probably overreacting, but it still bothered me.

And it bothered me in conjunction with how Edward continues to treat Rosalie throughout these two chapters. I understand that the two characters are supposed to be at odds with each other, but isn’t there a limit? He is so cruel to women that he doesn’t understand. And he never really tries to understand anyone except Bella. So his take on Rosalie just being a jealous, vain, and petty person with no more depth than a shallow pool of water totally grates me. It is a shallow understanding of her. She may enjoy the way she looks, and take pride in it, but that doesn’t make her shallow. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking pride in their looks – even at the extent to which she does. And she may come across as abrasive, but that doesn’t necessarily bother me either. Rosalie wants to protect herself and her family. She isn’t concerned with a human girl that she doesn’t even know. I personally like her as a character and I think her background story shows her inner strength. She is a survivor, not his mother. She doesn’t have to be kind to him.  She can be proud of herself. I’m all for it. 

Although I do still kind of wish Rosalie would call Edward out on being a psycho stalker, but alas. I suppose all characters have their flaws. 

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer: Edward’s Perception of Bella (Ch. 2 – 5)

Is it read-worth? So far, it’s still a definite no. I have too many problems with Edward and Bella’ relationship and somehow they’re all worse in Midnight Sun than they were in the original series. I’m just really not enjoying it so far. I wish that Meyer had used her platform in a better way, not to promote such unhealthy versions of teenage relationships, romantic and otherwise.

Photo: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers sourced on the Den of Geek Blog

SPOILER ALERT: I find it curious that Edward is so condescending towards Mike’s perception of Bella when his own perception of her is equally as delusional. He spends these few chapters I’ve just read agonizing over his own relationship with Bella, trying to avoid her, and, then, listening in to her interactions with the people around her, primarily people who are romantically interested in her. Is his obsession with her because of Alice’s vision? Perhaps he knows he will love her one day so he can’t help but pay attention. Or is it because he wants to have more material to punish himself with every time the smell of her blood makes him want to kill her?

I feel like I’ve made my own perspective on Edward’s relationship with Bella very apparent these past few blog posts. I’m just not super impressed with as a role model relationship for the young women who read these books. It’s creepy and weird. I think the only real reason that Edward is so deeply attracted to her is because he wants to punish himself for being a vampire. He wants to feel like a monster. He wants to hate himself. He wants to continue this cycle of self pity and self hatred that he has experienced throughout the last century of his existence. He wants to obsess over her, even love her, to the detriment of himself.

If Stephanie Meyer played up on that, I’d probably like these books better. If she played up the storyline of a creepy, obsessive, self-hating vampire stalker that follows a human girl around, it would be an extremely interesting series. It would be a totally different series. But she doesn’t. Instead, she makes it sound like this is the epitome of romance. It’s not. I don’t love it. I don’t want women to enter relationships that look like this and think that their partner’s less than savory behavior is because they’re in love with them. Romance should not involve obsession. It should not involve listening in to every conversation you have. It should not involve stalking.

Anyways, I find Edward’s perspective to be extremely hypocritical throughout these chapters of Midnight Sun. He mocks Mike for not noticing the little things he notices about Bella, such as her going out of her way to avoid confrontation or trying to help people who are experiencing awkward social interactions. He laughs that Mike is trying to make Bella into something she’s not, something more like himself.

Meanwhile, Edward totally misses the point that he’s doing the same exact thing. His view of Bella is through similar rosepainted glasses. Edward wants to see a girl who is so perfect and undeserving of death that he can further perpetuate his cycle of self hate with their image. He wants a girl who smells so good that he wants to kill her, but who is kind and caring and selfless and generous. He wants perfection to accentuate his own imperfections. If he was ever with her, he could continue hating himself for delaying the life of someone so perfect. As he does throughout the original books. He could also never stop hating himself for wanting to kill her. If he changes her, he would never stop hating himself, at least in part, for that. The perfect person for Edward is the one that makes him feel unworthy, like a monster.

I wouldn’t mind any of that if not for the fact that it feels like Meyer, the author, doesn’t see the hypocrisy in his behavior. She makes it feel like Edward’s unique perspective of Bella is the real one. I think she genuinely believes that Bella is perfectly selfish, unique, and so much different than other teenage girls. The fact that she isn’t that different from anyone else, and that Edward is so condescending towards others perceptions of her, is really what bothers me about that scenario. The entire book belittles normal people, calling attention to and complimenting people who strive to be different than the average person. Bella is better than her friends because she is so much more mature, quiet, and kind to others. Edward is better than others because he doesn’t have such mundane, teenage thoughts.

And this is neither here nor there, but I’m really getting sick and tired of this whole “I’m not like other girls” perspective that books like Twilight and Midnight Sun spread throughout young female readers. People try to act like it’s a compliment to girls to not be like other girls. When I was young, hearing phrases like these made me feel special. I felt like I was better than the people around me. I am unique because I’m not like them. They’re all the same. I’m not

But I wasn’t better than the people around me and those thoughts I was having, which were being encourage by popular media, were actually extremely destructive for myself and for the women around me. It’s okay, even fantastic, to be like other girls. You should not have to be different from them to be amazing. They’re amazing too.

Having thousands of girls strive to adopt a unique persona that separates them from each other is socially destructive. It’s harder for girls to form real relationships with each other. It’s hard on their self esteem to be constantly questioning what they themselves actually like. It’s hard for them to believe in themselves and others when they’re constantly looking down on their own femininity and trying to avoid being similar to other women. By creating and spreading the idea that women have to be “not like other girls,” you’re impacting their ability to just be themselves. 

You are also creating deeply ingrained ideas of misogyny and internalized hatred towards women and femininity. Essentially, by encouraging this unhealthy mindset throughout almost all of the Twilight series, Meyers is helping create misogynists who don’t even know they’re misogynistic. I wish that she had avoided doing so, particularly when it comes to the characters that surround Bella.

Jessica, as a character, is perhaps the worst example of this. Throughout these chapters and the couple of opening ones, Edward discusses her thoughts only in negative ways. Jessica is only mean, jealous, and selfish. She only has mean, jealous, and selfish thoughts. She is a stereotypical mean girl with no depth of character. It would have been well-received to see someone who is only described as terrible have at least one kind thought. Even the meanest of girls are not always mean. It would have been well-received for one moment where she acted out of character at least to detract from this idea that only girls who are different from the norm have value.

That idea also comes into play throughout Edward’s interactions with Rosalie these past few chapters. Meyer’s description of Rosalie only makes her out to be a callous, self-centered individual with deeply shallow thoughts. Rosalie may be mean to the people around her at times, but she is worth so much more than such a lacking personality. She is a survivor of violent assault. She is deeply wounded by her inability to be a mother. She loves Emmett and her family very much. She is not just a “shallow pool of water.” She is so much more and deserves so much more from Edward and the author.

What also annoyed me about these chapters was that, after rejecting Mike’s perspective of Bella as a person, Edward then went on to feel annoyance at Mike’s own feelings of possessiveness towards Bella. I understand that possessive men are annoying, trust me, but coming from Edward? It’s ridiculous. Mike’s version of possessiveness towards Bella is a hundred times healthier than Edward’s. Edward literally goes on to stalk Bella. He follows her around. He analyses her interactions with people. He sneaks into her bedroom to watch her sleep. He’s a freaking creep. None of this is romantic.

For a book whose target market is young women, I don’t feel like these past few chapters were healthy reads. They spread horribly misogynistic ideas. They describe a relationship characterized by stalking and the dismissal of the people around them. They are cruel to average people, particularly teen girls. I really didn’t enjoy them. But on to the next ones! 

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer: First Thoughts (Ch. 1-2.5)

First of all, disclaimer: I haven’t finished the book yet. I’m about two to three chapters in and I think I’m going to end up writing about the book as I go and then doing a final review at the very end. But so far? Not super impressed.

Like I’ve said previously, I don’t hate the original Twilight series. I enjoy reading them sometimes. I do, however, find a lot of the story-line and interactions offensive. I think Edward’s relationship with Bella is abusive. I think Meyer misses the mark on many scenes. I think she misses the opportunity to discuss real world problems that teens may have to face as they grow up.

For example, that scary scene where Bella is almost assaulted by a group of men? That was a great opportunity to discuss the horrible reality of sexual assault in this world and how to move past such an event, even if it is just overcoming a situation in which something almost happens. Instead, it’s just used as a device to bring Bella and Edward closer. Meyers glosses right over any type of recovery process. I could vent about that all day long. What a missed chance to bring some light to a bad situation. She could have used it to give survivors of assault a glimmer of hope. But she didn’t.

Nonetheless, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Even though I could. For paragraphs. I’m here to talk about Midnight Sun and what I think a few chapters in. And, to be honest, to its detriment it’s entirely what I expected so far. Having grown used to Edward’s constant self description as a monster, I wasn’t surprised by the intro. I was expecting an internal monologue of self-hate, admissions of guilt, and constant self questioning. Am I a monster? Is high school purgatory? Is this the punishment for my sins? Please give me a break. It’s just an unnecessarily large amount of dramatics for the beginning of a book. And there’s no comedic relief from it, which would have been well received on my end of things.

I equally disliked Edward’s interactions with Tanya during the beginning of the second chapter. They felt dishonest. How could Edward spend one hundred years as a teenage boy and never feel attracted to another person? Why has he never wanted a romantic relationship prior to Bella? I get that he is the type of person who is more attracted to personality than appearances, but it felt ridiculous that he had never encountered a personality that made him consider a romantic relationship. It’s been decades.

Maybe his refusal to date could be explained by how self-involved he is and that he just never notices anyone outside of his own cycle of self pity, but that feels a little bit shallow. There isn’t much depth to it. I don’t want the main character’s only personality trait in any book to be that he hates himself and loves a girl. His refusal to date anyone, for me, just really cements that that’s all there really is to Edward. Giving him even one ex romantic interest would have helped make him more well-rounded as a character. The one rebuffed would-be lover just isn’t the same.

Plus, sometimes it bothers me that Edward’s a vampire who believes he’s predestined to go to hell and he never really runs with that. Instead, he wastes time trying to prevent himself from sinning in other ways. What’s the point? He’s already damned. It feels like Meyers is trying to cater to a very specific audience that does not believe in premarital sex, but is doing it in the most illogical way. Edward believes he is evil. If he believes that premarital sex is evil, wouldn’t he have tried it at least once? At least in conjunction with the belief that he’s a horrible monster? He loves having ammo to hate on himself with.

Beyond that, I also wasn’t expecting certain scenes to be more annoying than I found them in the original Twilight series. One stands out in particular so far: the scene where Bella and Edward are having their first semi-polite conversation. I can’t entirely explain why, but it drove me nuts that she seemed so weirded out by Edward calling her Bella. She had been enrolled at that school more than a couple days at that point. With such a small school, it wouldn’t be unusual for people you haven’t talked to to learn small new details about your preferences. I went to a small school. You learned new things about people you barely knew all the time. That’s high school.

Plus, it’s perfectly explainable on his side as something that isn’t weird to know. It isn’t mind reading. It isn’t suspicious. He had simply heard more people talking about their interactions with ‘Bella Swan’ instead of their interactions with ‘Isabella Swan.’ She had already corrected half the school probably. It just seems like such a random thing to put a character on edge. In the real world, it’s unlikely she would have actually noticed.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be this annoyed with the book so far. I was annoyed at certain aspects of the overall series before, but not the actual chapter-to-chapter events and conversations taking place. The internal dialogue wasn’t so grating in the original book either. I kind of just breezed through the entire series. Perhaps it’s because I’ve already finished the original series that these first few chapters seem so much more aggravating. I don’t know if I’ll get to the point where I actually enjoy reading Midnight Sun. Right now, I’m more curious than anything else. I guess I’ll find out soon.