Although much darker than the original novels, Midnight Sun offers unprecedented insight into the characters that fans fell in love with all those years ago.
When I was 10 years old, I read the Twilight novels for the first time, and so my obsession started. I read and re-read the books, watched and re-watched the films, had the posters on my bedroom walls, and was never more sure of anything than my allegiance to Team Edward. So, when I saw that Midnight Sun was finally being published, I read them once again in preparation, alongside the original draft that leaked in 2008.
I’ve written extensively on what Midnight Sun might look like in 2020; what I didn’t expect was that the first third of the novel (which at 768 pages resembles something of a doorstopper) would look more or less exactly the same as it did 12 years ago. Despite Stephenie Meyer‘s criticism of the original leak, she’s kept an awful lot of it, but that is by no means a bad thing. Back then, as it is now, it was interesting to delve deeper into Edward’s mind. We get to hear what he really thinks about other people, and equally what they really think about him, as well as what life was like for the Cullens pre-Bella. Her perception of Edward was so idealised, it makes a refreshing change to see him for who he really is – a depressive, moody teenager full of self-loathing and guilt for literally everything he does.
It’s clear that Meyer listened to fans requests when it came to putting Midnight Sun together. However much fans invested in the series for the Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle, it is in the writing of other characters that Meyer really excels, and none are more popular than Alice and Jasper. Because Edward can read minds, we get a unique insight into how each of their powers actually works, as they were somewhat ambiguous in the main saga. Alice’s visions make up a huge part of Edward’s perspective, and are much more complex than we could have previously imagined, based on complicated probabilities and pathways in which she can analyse the consequences of the simplest of decisions. Jasper, meanwhile, can do much more than making people feel relaxed, which was all Bella seemed to recognise; it seemed pretty insignificant, to the extent that the Volturi weren’t particularly interested in him. Here, we find that he is able to entirely manipulate somebody’s view of a situation, a skill which truly comes into its own when the Cullens encounter James, a nomad vampire out to kill Bella.
It is this section of the novel which is most unique, as Edward and Bella separate to try and outsmart the tracker. It’s amazing to see how Meyer has embellished even the smallest details from the original novel, creating an exhilarating chase that is completely unknown to Bella. It is so much darker than we could have imagined, and has you re-evaluating these seemingly super-moral vampires; so, as a warning, there are some major spoilers in the next paragraph. If you haven’t read Midnight Sun yet, you can stop reading here with the assurance that if you’re a Twilight fan, you’ll probably really enjoy the extension of our beloved story, so you should definitely read it. That is without doubt.
However, while Bella’s perspective often had a tendency to humanise the Cullens, Midnight Sun seems to play a lot more on the idea of them being monsters. When rushing to reach Bella in the ballet studio, the Cullens steal a few cars – at one point, they even run a woman off the road, with Carlisle anaesthetising her and leaving her body on the side of a freeway, causing a 27 car pile-up in the process. Okay, there were no fatalities, but for a family whose very existences supposedly revolve around the preservation of human life, it feels a bit… off. The most troubling aspect of the novel, though, is Edward’s attitude towards Bella at the very end. He had seen Alice’s clear visions of what it would do to Bella if he left, and yet in the final chapters it becomes clear that he fully intends on doing it anyway. In New Moon, Bella describes the intervening months between the end of Twilight and her 18th birthday as “the happiest summer anyone anywhere had ever had”, and yet in Midnight Sun it becomes apparent that throughout that time he was lying to her and preparing to leave. It makes sense, but for me it certainly tainted Edward’s character and adds to his already problematic behaviour in the other novels, things that I hadn’t picked up on as a child but certainly made for sobering reading as an adult.
All in all, I loved reading this novel and revisiting the franchise that made me fall deeper in love with reading all those years ago. Stephenie Meyer adds another dimension to all of her characters, even to Bella, but it’s both a blessing and a curse to get to know them all a bit better. Although she’s said this will be the only novel from Edward’s perspective, it would be amazing if she did decide to complete the series, especially New Moon so we can really see the consequences of his actions on himself and his family. His perspective adds a darker, more adult dimension to the series, perhaps reflecting that its readers have grown up a lot in that time too.
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer is out now via Little, Brown Book Group.