Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Beware: This review contains spoilers! (Though I bet everyone's read the book already. I think I'm probably the last one to blog about it!)

It's taken me awhile to collect my thoughts about Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn, the final installment in the Twilight saga. The book has generated much controversy in the blogosphere, and I've heard some disappointed readers have gone as far as returning their copies! (Isn't that like keeping the tags on a dress and returning it after wearing it??) I think the conclusion to any beloved series generates strong opinions (i.e. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), and some of the comments about Breaking Dawn have been harsh, in my opinion (particularly the comparison of the book to fan fiction).

For me, Breaking Dawn wasn't an all-or-nothing, love-it-or-hate-it book. It opens with Book One told from Bella's point of view, and Meyer devotes numerous pages to human Bella's wedding to vampire Edward, their secluded tropical island honeymoon, and Bella's ability to make love to her passion-crazed, supernaturally strong vampire husband and survive. Before the honeymoon ends, the couple determines that Bella is pregnant with a half-human, half-vampire child who grows so quickly that Bella reaches the beached whale stage of pregnancy in only a few weeks. While I had no problem moving through the book, I was disappointed that the wedding and honeymoon scenes lacked the passion and intensity that have made Edward and Bella one of the most captivating fictional couples.

Book Two is told from the point of view of Jacob Black, Bella's werewolf/shape-shifter best friend who has long competed with Edward for her affections. He may have been upset with Bella for choosing Edward and making plans to become a vampire, but he's not about to join the pack in disposing of Bella, or at the very least her monster-child, when the pack believes her pregnancy is a violation of the pact between the werewolves and the vampire Cullen family. The book focuses on free will, as Jacob breaks away from the pack with Seth and Leah Clearwater to assume the role of true Alpha. The three of them pretty much spend all of Book Two guarding the Cullen house while Bella, guarded by Rosalie, grows weaker as the baby inside her grows stronger. It was a little exhausting when page after page Bella is beaten from the inside and her ribs are broken, and Edward--the Edward who saved her countless times in the previous books and even planned to have himself killed by the Volturi rather than cause her pain--just sits there like a stick figure, a placeholder. However, with regard to point of view, I think Jacob's voice in Book Two is the most authentic and true to the characters Meyer created in Twilight and evolved through Eclipse.

For me, Breaking Dawn didn't really start until Book Three, told from Bella's point of view after being saved from death during childbirth by Edward's vampire venom. I was entertained by Bella's transformation from clumsy human, to supermodel, super-strong vampire. (The scene where she arm wrestles Emmett was a hoot!) However, it seemed awful convenient that Bella had none of the newborn weakness for human blood and could be around Jacob, her father, and her daughter Renesmee without losing control. I was hoping for more of the instability of the newborn age, considering that Meyer harped on the challenges facing new vampires in the previous books. It also was odd to see Bella take to vampire life so easily. All of the Cullens had mentioned previously how difficult it was to transition from human to vampire, but for Bella, it was a cinch.

Book Three mainly deals with the Cullens rounding up vampires from around the world to defend themselves against the Volturi traveling to Forks from Italy to kill Renesmee, whom they believe to be an illegal immortal child, and all the vampires responsible for her existence. As Bella worked on controlling her supernatural gift to protect the ones she loved, I had high hopes for the showdown with the Volturi...but the story fell flat. It's not that I wanted Meyer to kill off particular characters, I just expected more action. She did a great job building it up, but when the pivotal scene arrived, I was left wanting more.

I've read numerous reviews that raise questions about whether Meyer is a racist, whether she's pro-choice, whether she promotes girls giving up their chances for a future in order to be with a certain boy, etc., but what disappointed me most was the inconsistencies in the characters and the flat ending. I liked how the characters were developed and evolved in the previous three books, but in Breaking Dawn, I didn't see much evolution in Bella. It seemed as though Bella got whatever she wanted, so she didn't have to learn much of anything. Oh, if only real life were that way!!

Overall, though, I enjoyed the book. While I may have been disappointed with the book as the conclusion to a series I'd grown to love, taken on it's own, it was a decent fantasy novel. The plot was interesting, and I was pulled into the story from the start. I think much of the controversy stems from the fact that people get attached to certain characters, they grow to know and love them (sometimes almost like real people) over the course of a series, and there is no way the author is going to live up to everyone's expectations. I just remind myself to respect that the characters belong to the authors, and they have every right to tell the story the way they see fit.

Breaking Dawn also was reviewed by:

Savvy Verse and Wit

It's All About Books
Becky's Book Reviews
Book Escape
The Bookworm
Maw Books
The Written Word
Girls Just Reading
A Patchwork of Books
Book Addiction

If your review isn't listed, please give me the link, and I will add it to the list!!

Disclosure:  I borrowed Breaking Dawn from the library.


Serena said...

Amen, sister! LOL they are Meyer's characters and she can do with them what she pleases.

The critics have been harsh, and I include myself in that as well. However, my qualms were with the writing and lack of character development. I had a serious problem with all of those things. I think that she needed to spend more time with this book; it felt rushed to me, like her attention and heart were elsewhere.

Anna said...

I agree that it feels rushed. As you can see I was most disappointed by the absence of the characters we'd grown to know and love. But it didn't make it a bad book...just not what I'd expected.

I don't think your review was harsh. I think it was honest, and you admitted that you still enjoyed the book.

Anonymous said...

I love Twilight!! It's amazing. Have you heard of TwilightShirts.com? I got a twilight shirt from there that says "team edward" its awesome...

Anna said...

Hi, Amy! I haven't heard of that site before, but thanks for mentioning it. I'm definitely Team Edward!

Anonymous said...

I'll admit, I've jumped over most reviews of this book but I read every word of yours! however, it'll be a long time before I read this. (too much hype syndrome) I love the list of what you've read already this year! lots of variety.

Anna said...

bkclubcare: Glad you enjoyed my review enough to keep reading! That made my day! I don't have any one genre that I like to read. I just read whatever sounds good to me at the time. Thanks for stopping by my blog and hope you come back again soon!

Lady Blogger said...

Anna, I have a question for you: How do you get the time to read so many books? Please share your secrets! :)

Anna said...

Lady Blogger: I don't have any juicy secrets, unfortunately! ;) I read on the commuter rail, the subway, and the bus, which amounts to 3 to 4 hours per day, depending on how much waiting I do for the afternoon commuter train. I don't do a lot of reading at home, except when I'm not interested in something the hubby and The Girl are watching on tv and I'm not in the mood to knit or write. I just have a really long commute!

Lady Blogger said...

Ahh yes. I forgot about your long commute. I don't think it would be wise for me to start reading during my commute as you'd be soon reading about the teacher who drove herself into the lake! :) Have a great day!

Anna said...

Yeah, that wouldn't be a great idea, Lady Blogger!

Jeannie said...

I've always been a fan of vampire books and grew up on Anne Rice's Chronicles. But because your view was not a glowing positive, I'll have to think a bit more about getting into this series of books. I tend to be rather selective, since I don't have much time for reading (unfortunately).

Anna said...

Overall, I'd definitely recommend this series. It was unfortunate that the last book wasn't as strong as the other three, but even so, I enjoyed it.

Rashmi said...

I haven't read this book or indeed this series, but I really liked your review. You summed it up beautifully and explained it all so well.

Anna said...

Thanks, Bookworm! Even though the last book wasn't what I'd expected, I'd still recommend the series!

Jenn said...

I agree with a lot of what you and your readers have said.

I felt that Bella's easy transition into being a newborn Vampire was part of her coming into her own and her own gift so to speak... her resolution of character. Bella came off as so weak in New Moon that her strength of resolve in Breaking Dawn balanced it out in the grand scheme of things.

Thanks for the mention. http://girlsjustreading.blogspot.com

I like your site. :D

Anna said...

Hi Jenn! Glad you like my blog. I hope you'll come back soon!

I see what you're saying about Bella being weak. I did like how she evolved from New Moon, it just seemed a little quick for me. Thanks for participating in the discussion!