New Moon: Wherefor Art Thou Edward?

With her first book, Twilight, about the undying love between a mysterious, sparkling vampire named Edward Cullen and a clumsy, insecure teenage tomboy called Bella Swan, Stephanie Meyer created a monster.

The same can be said about the second book in the Twilight series, New Moon. By saying she created a monster, I mean neither a vampire nor a werewolf (which are both prevalent in New Moon), but a beast of a different kind. With her book now a voraciously popular film (which grossed over $72 million on the opening day in the US alone), she spawned a colossal love for a series of young adult novels that hasn’t received this much attention in the book world since J. K. Rowling published her Harry Potter series.

While some say New Moon is boring, slow, or too lacking in Edward, it remains my favorite book in the series. It’s bleak, full of yearning, heartbreak, and something that comes very close to a love triangle. Its quiet angst is precisely why I like it.

New Moon continues where Twilight left off. This installment begins as the Cullens throw Bella an 18th birthday party. After she pricks her finger on a present and the blood that drips from her paper cut causes Jasper, the Cullen vampire with the least experience around human blood, to salivate dangerously, Edward sees what peril he has put his beloved in and decides to remove her from danger. He does this by breaking if off with Bella shortly thereafter, then disappearing from Forks, Washington, taking his family with him.

Bella reels in despair. It is her darkest hour — the darkness of a new moon. Curled up on the forest floor and inert in her bedroom while life goes on around her, Bella is immobilized by heartbreak. The only relief she finds is in her best friend, Jacob Black, the boy from the reservation who has grown up literally. He’s suddenly tall and full of muscles, and after a mysterious illness, cuts off all is hair and gets a tattoo. This definitely isn’t the little Jake of the first book.

It doesn’t take long for Bella to learn he’s become a werewolf or to find that she’s warmed up to him despite her broken heart for the “cold one” she’s still in love with. In addition, Bella finds comfort in engaging in reckless acts like crashing motorcycles and going off with strange men because by doing these things, she summons Edward’s voice that warns her to stay away from danger. To her, hearing his voice again is worth the near-death debacles she gets herself into.

When Edward is told by his future-seeing sister, Alice, that Bella has taken a cliff dive, Edward is devastated because Alice doesn’t see that Bella has survived the fall. Edward’s fears are confirmed after he calls Bella’s house only to have Jacob answer the phone and say that Charlie (Bella’s father) is away planning a funeral. It isn’t Bella’s funeral, of course, but Edward doesn’t know this.

Believing Bella is dead, Edward decides to end his own life. The way to do this is complicated. It requires a trip to Volterra, Italy to visit the head coven of vampires called The Volturi and ask to be killed. If they refuse him, which they do, the only way to anger them enough to kill him is to shame them publicly.

Edward plans on doing this by exposing himself in the sunlight to a crowd commemorating the expulsion of vampires from their hillside town many years ago. How will they know he’s a vampire? Quite simply, he sparkles like a diamond in the sun.

Meanwhile, Alice runs back to Forks to tell Bella what her brother plans to do. The two fly to Volterra to stop Edward from pulling the stunt which could end the 109-year-old vampire’s life.

If any of this sounds reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, that’s because it is. Not only is the play referenced throughout the book, it has many of the same plot elements: forbidden love; a lovelorn young man (or vampire in Meyer’s case) who sets out to end his life when he believes his darling is dead, even though she isn’t; another young man (or werewolf in this case) who seeks the young woman’s heart; sweeping scenes in Italy (Volterra here instead of Verona); and a love between two people so intoxicating it hurts.

Meyer said in a 2008 Youtube video that her book was greatly influenced by Shakespeare’s famous play and that New Moon is “closely tied to Romeo and Juliet. It’s really the theme of the novel.” (“Stephanie Meyer Interview”)

At its heart, New Moon is first and foremost a love story. Bella and Edward’s longing for each other is what makes the series so appealing. It fully encapsulates the bliss and agony of first love or any love that would make you lie down and die for the other person. In New Moon, Bella’s despair after Edward leaves her is tangible. Three months after his absence she states:

Time passes. Even when it seems impossible. Even when each tick of the second hand aches like the pulse of blood behind a bruise. It passes unevenly, in strange lurches and dragging lulls, put pass it does. Even for me

The New Moon film is missing Bella’s inner monologue, which I found so important to the story. The film can also be tough to follow if you haven’t read the book first. A lot happens in the just-over-two-hour movie. Having read the book, I was able to follow and enjoy the film apart from some corny CGI effects.

Since the release of Twilight, the directors have changed hands from Catherine Hardwicke to Chris Weitz and the result is a more mature, more quiet film. Perhaps I just like this movie more since I liked New Moon, the book, more than I liked Twilight.

Because Edward has removed himself from the story, Edward Pattinson isn’t in the film much, but when he is, those appearances made me realize why everyone loves that glittery vampire so much. He is a scene stealer no matter how little screen time he gets. But unlike the funny, sardonic character Stephanie Meyer wrote in her books, Pattinson plays a serious, often brooding Edward who rarely smiles. The payoff is that when he does crack his lips to show those pearly whites, it’s worth the wait.

His absence makes room for Jacob and New Moon becomes Taylor Lautner’s film. Despite liking Jacob in the books, I found him sometimes pushy and arrogant. Not so in the film. Taylor Lautner brings Jacob to life in a way not even Stephanie Meyer could. He’s dark, handsome, yet gentle and reflective. The pain in his eyes when Bella tells him she would always pick Edward over him is genuine and tender.

As in Twilight, Kristen Stewart is wonderful as Bella. She’s so good that I forget the Bella Swan I had in my head before I saw her as the introverted tomboy on screen. She looks the part to a tee — gangly, yet pretty; pretty but not overly beautiful. She is the incarnate of the girl next door. Her eyes are doe-like and expressive, constantly searching the faces around her for answers to the questions that vex her.

Which brings me to this: .New Moon relies heavily on the faces of those in the film. I found myself staring at the detail in everyone’s facial features – – perfectly shaped lipsticked mouths, playful and colorful eyes, pasty skin, dark handsome characteristics, the lines around Billy Burke’s eyes (he plays Charlie).

The landscape is also a main component in the film. Shot in Vancouver, the screen fills with lush, rainy landscape at every camera turn. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Victoria, a vampire set on destroying Bella, runs from the werewolves who chase her through the rainy woods as Thom Yorke’s contribution to the soundtrack, “Hearing Damage”, plays in the background.

Here the audience is treated to the rush of water over a precipice at the edge of the woods, the forest from inside and above, and the speed at which Victoria moves. It’s CGI enhanced and dramatic without being over-the-top.

While the film isn’t as good as the book due to lack of time and the removal of Bella’s inner monologue, it’s a well-done movie with a great soundtrack, to boot. New Moon is a fresh take on the lure of vampires and werewolves and a youthful rendering of an age-old love story.