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.