In astronomy, a new moon occurs when the moon is situated directly between the earth and the sun, thus making the it darken and seem to disappear. Stephanie Meyer seizes upon this symbolism in New Moon, her follow-up to Twilight, by placing her melodramatic heroine, Bella Swan, between two young men who really, really, (c'mon) really love her: Edward, her stone-faced (and extremely boring) vampire boyfriend, and Jacob, her emotionally unstable best friend, who also happens to be the most powerful werewolf on the local Indian reservation.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it. If you are like me, you are probably wondering what is up next for poor Bella? A pen pal who happens to be Frankenstein's monster? A swimming date with the Creature from the Black Lagoon? Maybe a crush on Igor?
Fortunately, Meyer knows her books are ridiculous...or, at least, I think she knows. Several passages in New Moon, after all, seem more than a little tongue-in-cheek. Take, for instance, Bella's inner turmoil as she struggles to come to terms with Jacob's lupine state:
"I pulled up to the Black's house with my lips pressed together into a hard line. It was bad enough that my best friend was a werewolf. Did he have to be a monster, too?"
Bad enough, indeed, Bella.
New Moon is full of such passages, and rightly so. For a plot to be taken seriously--at least, the kind of plot like we see in New Moon--it needs to convey a certain amount of pathos, or serious, intense emotion. What Meyer gives us is bathos, or emotion that is so ridiculously over-the-top that it becomes funny. While most bathos in literature today is unintentional, I believe Meyer's is not--at least, I hope it isn't. I have hard time believing that Meyer is not giving me a knowing wink as I wade through the endless barrage of gasps and snarls and moans and groans that is New Moon.
Yeah, she seems to say to me, I know its ridiculous. Keep reading.
New Moon--which could also be titled I Was a Teenage Werewolf (or, more accurately, I Was in Love with a Teenage Werewolf after My Boring Vampire Boyfriend Dumped Me)--begins about a year after the events of Twilight. Life is perfect for Bella until she receives a near-fatal paper cut (I'm not making this up, folks!), which acts as a wake-up call for her vampire boyfriend, who realizes that the only way he can ensure Bella's safety is to dump her and "move" to L. A.
Such is life. At least in vampire fiction.
For the next THREE HUNDRED PAGES, Bella moans and groans (and moans and groans) about losing Edward, decides to live "dangerously", and becomes BFFs (and maybe a little more) with a kid named Jacob, who is two years younger and appeared briefly in Twilight. The plot thickens (not unlike blood) when Bella learns that Jacob is a werewolf, which means he is the sworn enemy of all vampires--including Bella's immortal beloved. As Bella is coping with this new development--and (as always) the absence of her vampire lover--she discovers that a vengeful evil vampire (i.e. one that drinks human blood) is out to get her. How will it end?
Well, the weakness of New Moon is that it never does. Before the showdown between the teenage werewolf and the vengeful vampire can occur, Edward's sister whisks Bella away to Italy in order to prevent Edward from committing vampire suicide. The rest of the novel focuses solely on the vampires, leaving the werewolves with little more to do than wag their tails. Jacob, of course, returns in the novel's epilogue, but the plot Meyer develops for the first 400 pages of the novel does not, which left me feeling a little shortchanged. Meyer spent page after page preparing me for a werewolf fight, but what I got in the end was a melodramatic vampire rescue mission.
This is unfortunate, of course, because Meyer's werewolves are much more interesting than her repressed vampires. In this novel, for example, Edward Cullen is about as dull and lifeless as the stone statues he is so often compared to. The same is also true about the other "vegetarian" vampires in his coven. Why? One reason, perhaps, is the control and restraint that they must exercise in every aspect of life.
In fiction, however, conflict is what generates interest, and "control" and "restraint," which are largely internal conflicts, do not translate well into external, visual conflict. Meyer's werewolves, on the other hand, have almost no control over their emotions and physical abilities, which makes them potentially more interesting. Jacob, in other words, generates more reader-interest than Edward--at least in this novel--because he seems always on the verge of losing his temper and killing Bella--or, at least, ripping her face off.
Ultimately, though, New Moon is not such a bad novel. In many ways, Meyer seems to have put more thought into developing its symbols and themes than she did in Twilight. What is more, she establishes a parallel between her plot and that of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which works fairly well for what it is. My main problems with it are essentially aesthetic. Meyer's use of language, for example, is awkward, while her handling of plot is (to use a Meyerian modifier) glaringly clumsy. Furthermore, her story is too big in scope for a single first-person narrator, which limits the action to what Bella--and only Bella--sees and feels. I can only imagine how much better this novel would be if Meyer gave us access to the minds of her repressed, internally-conflicted vampires.
But I'm taking this novel more seriously than Meyer wants me to. It is, after all, nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek melodrama about a teenage girl, her pet werewolf, and a jerk vampire who used to be her boyfriend.