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New Moon

New Moon - Stephenie Meyer So much to say about this book! Most of which I already posted in my eleventy-thousand updates, so I'll stick with the theme suggested by a friend: what is it about Bella that casts a spell over so many readers and drives so many other readers smack-dab out of their minds?

I got a clue from one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite novels, Anne Tyler's Ladder of Years: "The very thing that attracts you to someone can end up putting you off."

That must be it, I decided: the very qualities of Bella's character that make some readers love her, or at least identify with her and root for her, must be the same things that make other readers want to club her and skin her and wear her as a hat.

Clearly, all I had to do was sift through Bella's personality and figure out which of her characteristics was having this effect.

It didn't take long, and that was my next clue.

The secret of Bella's appeal and repulsiveness is this: Bella has no discernible personality whatsoever. None.

She has no hobbies, no close friends or family, no political beliefs, no artistic tendencies, no spiritual bent, no religious curiosity, no academic interests, no ideas, no ideals.

She gets good grades by diligently applying herself and doing her homework rather than from any intellectual passion.

She is a competent cook because the alternative is living on takeout pizza and her father's never-ending eggs and bacon.

She used to live in Arizona, which she liked because the weather is hot and dry; now she lives in Forks, Washington, which she dislikes because the weather is cold and wet.

She says she's a reader, but there's no evidence for it. She doesn't bother getting a library card because the local library is too small. She plans exactly one trip to a bookstore, and doesn't mind at all that she never gets there.

That's it. That's all there is to her.

Bella is (to paraphrase Robert Musil) the woman without qualities.

She is, in other words, a perfect blank on which readers can draw any picture they choose.

Readers who want to imagine themselves into the story can put themselves in Bella's shoes without any difficulty or glaring contradictions.

This same utter blankness is what makes other readers (yours truly included) want to use the Twilight books as fuel for a line of alternative-energy vehicles we'd be willing to design and build by hand just so we could feel we'd made the world a better place in two ways.

That said, this book is an improvement on Twilight – hence the two stars to Twilight's one. Here's what New Moon has going for it:

1. Edward is gone, Daddy, gone. For most of Eclipse, the reader is blissfully free of Edward's constant chuckling, condescending remarks, sneering observations, and alleged physical perfection.

So is Bella; but unfortunately, she doesn't take this as good news. Instead, she spends her time pining for him and having even less personality than usual. When she isn't being utterly passive, she's flinging herself into dangerous situations with no thought for anyone's feelings but her own. Her monstrous self-absorption is actually rather impressive considering how little self there is for her to be absorbed in.

Still, Bella sans Edward is a huge improvement, storywise.

2. Jacob's story is pretty cool. It's really a shame we all know he's a werewolf, because Meyer does some really good storytelling here. Jacob is afraid that some former friends of his have been sucked into a cult, and terrified that he's being targeted as the next member of the creepiness club. Even his father seems to see what's happening and approve of it. Bella is worried, but tries to reassure him. The next thing she knows, he's hanging out with the very gang he'd been so afraid of – and wants nothing to do with her, though they'd been best friends just a few days before.


It's actually quite compelling.

Unfortunately, Edward comes back, Bella feels validated in her steadfast refusal to get a life, and Jacob is kicked to the curb.

The end.

P.S. I've already started reading Eclipse. I'm less than 200 pages in and I can't tell you how many times I've begged to have Hitler or Stalin or Mussolini brought back to life just long enough for me to beat them to death with this book and then use it as kindling for their funeral pyre. I'm absolutely enraged at how horrifyingly stalkerish and controlling Edward is being. Any suggestions for my take on that review are most welcome, since at this point it's looking like one long scream.