Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Breaking Dawn

Meyer, Stephenie. 2008. Breaking Dawn.

What more can be said about Breaking Dawn. Chances are you either a) have already read it and are very opinionated (loved it; hated it) b) are planning to read it and have already read other spoiler reviews (like all the ones on Amazon) c) are planning to read it and are avoiding all reviews just in case they have some spoilers d) have no interest in reading it at all. (So far--on Amazon--as of Wednesday, September 13th 10AM Central time, it has received 2, 251 reviews: 925 5 star reviews, 317 4 star reviews, 197 3 star reviews, 250 2 star reviews, and 562 1 star reviews.) There will be spoilers.

I have extremely mixed feelings on Breaking Dawn. Probably the biggest problem with the novel is that it defies logic. And I'm not just talking because they're werewolves and vampires. In the first three novels, Meyer has created--for the most part--a very realistic accounting. Yes, there are vampires and other supernatural beings, but they're written in such a way that they feel real. It reads like typical realistic fiction. It's not hard to swallow, to suspend your disbelief. Yes, Meyer's fictional world doesn't quite match up with reality, but it has its own set of rules to go by. Its own logic. Not in Breaking Dawn.

Breaking Dawn reminds me of the movie Soap Dish. It almost seems to be a spoof of the first three novels. The rules are being rewritten as you go. The rules and logic are very slippery. Almost all of the logic that has evolved in the first three novels and in the first few chapters of Breaking Dawn even will be tossed out the window by book two. The only explanation used by the characters are that they didn't know. They're just as surprised as the rest of us at the strange goings on in the plot. Meyer really doesn't give us much more to go on. We're just supposed to believe so thoroughly that Bella--both as human and vampire--was so one-of-a-kind, so unique, so magically supernatural that of course she can do anything she wants. She's had the power all along. In New Dawn and Eclipse and even Twilight, Meyer backs up her supernatural beings with supernatural mythology and logic. She explains why they exist, how they exist, gives them purpose, defines their limitations, explores their needs and intents. Not so with Breaking Dawn. There are no answers to the questions.

The other reason is that Breaking Dawn is just so weird, so very very weird. The fast-acting, miracle-gro vampire sperm that compacts a nine month pregnancy into three or four weeks. The wonder-baby that develops from a newborn to a preschooler (almost looks 5) in just five months. We're told in the end that she'll be fully grown (an adult) in just seven years. Jacob's imprinting on the baby. Edward calling Jacob both "brother" and "son." Jacob's living in the Cullen house. Edward asking Jacob at one point to have sex with Bella and give her some pups. The all-night sex marathons just a week after giving birth. I could go on and on and on.

Bella. I've had my fair share of issues with Bella. She was whiny. She was too dependent. She was too immature. She was manipulative (though to be fair all the characters have been manipulative.) Bella has never been the "role model" teen in my opinion. Her whole world is Edward, she idolizes him. She places him so far above herself in the first three books--and in half of this book as well--that it's just too unhealthy. She sees him as perfect, flawless, the one and only reason for her existence. And that's just dangerous as we saw in New Moon. In some ways, becoming a vampire corrects some of these Bella-flaws. She's more of his equal now. But the doting has only intensified. The scary thing for me is the portrayal of their love. For me it isn't their age. It's not that they're 17-and-18 and getting married. They're going to be trapped at those ages for eternity. And age is just a number after all. (Though I must say that if it was any other "human" experiencing that much panic and anxiety and cold feet and still going to go through with the wedding anyway it would be a big mistake. I don't typically buy into the hidden-or-not-so-hidden messages in books. But the message of this one early on could be frightening; ignore your own feelings, ignore your intuitions and judgment, and get married anyway. That would be frightening for any age.) No, the issue for me is how sickeningly sweet, perfectly perfect, oozing in euphoria the happy couple is at all times.

"Happiness was the main component in my life now, the dominant pattern in the tapestry." (527)

"And then Edward hugged me tightly, because nothing pleased him more than my overwhelming ecstasy in this new life. And I was euphoric the vast majority of the time. The days were not long enough for me to get my fill of adoring my daughter, the nights did not have enough hours to satisfy my need for Edward." (527)

I believe that people can be happy in their marriages. But overwhelming ecstatic and euphoric the vast majority of time on a day in day out forever and ever basis? Not likely. Problems happen. Arguments happen. You get annoyed. You get frustrated. You have bad days. You have good days. You have so-so days. Life happens. Life is not perfect. No one gets everything they want. But I don't think its possible--single or married--to go through life "overwhelmingly ecstatic." Some of Bella's descriptions are just over-the-top sickeningly sweet.

And it's not like I want Bella to be miserable. Or for Edward to become un-perfect in her eyes. Or vice versa. But still.

Yet, if you could go outside yourself you could find yourself enjoying it in a very amusing way. Yes, it's not believable. Yes, it's very very weird. But entertaining? I must say that it is.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Suey said...

Great review Becky! I love all the things you bring out here. I tend to be one that just reads and doesn't worry about all the illogical stuff, but when you point it all out, I have to agree. There was a lot of wierd stuff going on here. But I loved it all anyway!

Kirk L. Shaw said...

Great review! It just goes to show that speculative fiction (even romantic speculative fiction) needs rules and order in order for the story to be enjoyable and believable. Brandon Sanderson and David Farland have always done that so well, among others.

Anonymous said...

Interesting review. I think I enjoyed it more than you as I just read it without thinking through the consequences as much. I like my vampire fiction to be that, fiction! There were some mixed messages and I do agree with your points about their love being so euphoric. I think it is possible to still have that magic feeling despite being married for a few years with its hardships and arguments though.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more about Bella's character. I preferred ALICE over Bella?!

LOVE your description of the 'miracle-gro vampire sperm'...TOO funny!

tanita✿davis said...

Eek! I haven't read this book (and wasn't planning on it) but yours is the most straightforward review yet.

I'm really ...realizing that many people want to be brides, but have no idea about the day-in-day-out wife thing. It's NOT a glorious cycle of song your whole life, it can't be. And your not going to be in "rip off their clothes" mode with your partner forever; it's vital that young people wondering about marriage know that.

I dunno. SM "dreamed" the whole thing, so it's not like people can pin her on details like that, but still, knowing I had such a massive teen audience -- in my waking hours I think I'd want to make sure such thinks were crystal clear...

Serena said...

I want to say that I would have preferred more marital tension between Edward and Bella with regard to Renesmee and whether to keep her was the right thing for them or not. I wanted to see Edward struggle more...not just sit there like a stoic bump on a log. He really was more opinionated and immovable in the other books, and I didn't see why that had to change simply because Bella is pregnant and his doesn't mean he loved her less.

Anonymous said...

Great review! I know you are a Twilight fan but I am glad you were not blinded by it. After re-browsing through my Heyer's books, which I didn't do for quite many years (I forgot how GENIUS she is) I don't think I can ever swallow Meyer again. EVER.
I fully admit, her books are easy to read through (at least, when I started although by the end, I couldn't take in any more of the nonsense). I own to have been thoroughly obsessed with Twilight. But the more I ponder about it, the more I dislike it until it grew to pure loathing. Unlike many other truly good books (and they don't have to be classics), each reading makes the experience worsen and the faults glaring.
If you want a good laugh (and I mean teary-stomach-hurting-spitting laugh), you should check the recaps made by Dan_bergstein on Twilight. It might get you a couple chapters but he's pure satirical genius. He even has a fan club. Click on the first google entry of "dan_bergstein" I already knew of Meyer's fault before, but I didn't realize how bad it was until I read his recaps. They are by far more entertaining than reading the books.
And I apologize for the rant. It's just that I just finished a Heyer Book and then decided to revisit Breaking Dawn and just couldn't go past the firt chapter. It was revolting.