I am not quite sure what I expected when my copy of Midnight Sun arrived, but turns out, a return to Forks was exactly what my 2020 needed.
As I assume is true for many people my age, Twilight had a huge effect on my middle school years. I was an unironic, hard-core fan. But as time passed (and the movies proved to be annoyingly average) I found myself drifting away from the world, and opening my eyes to its more problematic elements. By the time I reached adulthood, the lives of Edward and Bella were a fun but distant memory. Then 2020 happened.
The isolation brought on by suddenly having nowhere to go and nothing to do has led me to search for content that makes me feel engrossed and safe. So when it was announced we were getting a new Twilight book, I figured “Why not?”
To prepare, I re-watched all five movies and reread Twilight (okay, I listened to the audiobook), and honestly, I was a little shocked at how engaging it was. Yes, as a 24-year-old, I now understood why my mom had complained that Bella was a whiny teenager, because well … she is. But I also couldn’t help but be comforted by that indescribable feeling that can only be found in one of your favorite books.
Not only was I excited to read Midnight Sun, I was invested. I mean, I knew how the plot would shake out, but I had questions and this book did not disappoint. So here they are, the five big questions that, after over a decade of waiting, I finally got the answers to.
Please note, there will be Midnight Sun specific spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t finished reading (and this book is long, so no judgment), stop here!
1. What were the dynamics of the Cullen family when no one was watching?
For better or worse, the Cullen’s truly are the most interesting characters in the first book. They are crucial to the plot but shrouded in just enough mystery you can’t help but want to learn more. And thanks to Edward’s fun little party trick, we got a much better look at their inner lives.
It was unsurprising that Emmett was immediately my favorite. He is basically the perfect big brother and I appreciate that someone was giving Edward the hard time he truly deserved. I also found myself liking Esme a lot more. Watching her interact with her family gave her more dimension as a character and solidified that she really was the mother of the group.
Reading this, however, did not cleared up my feelings for Rosalie. By the end, I was honestly more confused. Her hatred towards Bella was always explained as jealousy, and weariness. She wanted to be human so badly that being around someone who was willing to give that up was too difficult. Okay, I get that. I also understood when she agreed to try for Edward. I really enjoyed learning about how they bonded when she brought home Emmett and came to love each other as brother and sister.
But none of that explains why she was unwilling to help Bella when she was being hunted. You would think that if she valued Bella’s humanity, she would want to help protect it. Ultimately it felt like the plot needed someone in the Cullen family to be a point of contention and Rosalie was cast in that role for no good reason. She definitely deserved better.
2. Did Edward recognize how creepy he was being?
To his credit, YES! Though if you know that you are being creepy, does that make the creepiness better or worse?
A fairly basic critique of this love story is that watching someone sleep, when they don’t know you’re there, is not romantic — it’s stalking. And Edward himself would agree with this. He was constantly going on and on about how inappropriate his behavior was, but he also never seemed to put a great deal of energy into changing it.
Ultimately, his incessant need to be near Bella was described as a compulsion. He knew it was wrong, but he just couldn’t stop himself. Which is funny because he was also constantly congratulating himself for his incredible self-control (*big eye-roll*)
These scenes were not my favorite, I would have much preferred that Edward spent his nights hanging out with his family or remembering other stories from his immortal life. These moments were more interesting and didn’t leave everyone feeling a little gross.
3. Did Bella have any ambitions for her “human” life?
This was kind of a pleasant surprise. Actually, on the whole, this version of the story made me like Bella a lot more and not simply because Edward was in love with her. Instead of just having to believe she was a generally nice person, we’re given concrete examples of her helping a struggling classmate or standing up for friends when they were made fun of.
Even better, we finally got to hear her answers to the personal questions Edward bombards her with about halfway through the book. Turns out she did have a plan for after high school that wasn’t, you know… become a vampire. I am not sure I can imagine Bella as a great teacher, but it’s nice to know that she had, at the very least, thought about it.
4. What went down while they hunted James?
I was really looking forward to these scenes and for the most part, they did not disappoint. The initial hunt with all the water-based misdirection was a little dull, but they more than made up for it with the complicated, high-speed chase through Phoenix. If anyone is trying to explain why there should be a movie version, that bit is all the proof you need. (Though I can’t say I enjoyed when they causally caused a massive accident or drugged a woman in order to steal her car. Come on guys, do better.)
The aftermath of the battle was even better. My favorite part of the whole 658 pages was seeing exactly how Alice decided to cover their tracks. After all that dread and panic, watching her, in her element, execute her perfectly precise plan was very satisfying. I definitely aspire to Alice levels of self-confidence.
5. What was Edward’s ideal definition of forever?
Twilight ends with Bella contemplating what forever with Edward would look like and Midnight Sun ends with Edward mulling over the same question. What genuinely surprised me though, was that they were not hoping for the same ending.
Edward was always clear that he wanted Bella to live a human life, but I had assumed that he intended to be there with her while she did. Turns out, Edward’s motive for taking Bella to prom wasn’t to ensure that she had some “normal” memories, but to make sure she had good stories to tell her kids. Yeah, that one kind of blew me away.
Edward’s departure in New Moon always felt like a reaction to the events of her birthday party (side note: if Jasper could control himself in a dance studio full of Bella’s blood, why was a paper cut such a big deal?), but it turns out that leaving her was always part of his plan. I am not sure if I am disappointed or proud that he really was trying to prevent her from making a super rash, life-altering decision at 17.
I did however, find it very amusing that Edward was already contemplating the idea of Bella possibly ending up with Jacob as a suitable alternative. Turns out Jacob has a very pleasant mind to hang out in. Careful what you wish for!