My best friend always skips New Moon when watching the Twilight films. This is mostly due to a lack of Edward content (i.e., an absence of Robert Pattinson screentime – see also Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (2020) for such a crime), but when we occasionally do watch the second film, we were consistently puzzled as to why Edward leaves his apparent love so abruptly. It wasn’t until I read Midnight Sun that I realised, along with many other revelations, why Edward abandons Bella in the wilderness and why New Moon is integral to understanding Edward’s character and Bella’s Persephone-esc fall for the cold one. NB: If it isn’t already evident, I am Team Edward, however my heart is truly with Team Jasper – but that’s a whole separate post.
Before looking at the rather lengthy novel, I should preface my recommendation with the requirement to first read the original series or even see the movies. The action from Edward’s point of view is frequently difficult to follow, thus there is an ease in flitting between the thoughts of those surrounding him and the action taking place when the reader can visualize a melancholic, blue-washed Forks, Washington.
The novel’s primary disclosures are the exposition of Edward’s and his coven’s past, what he gets up to when he’s not with Bella (spoiler: it’s mainly thinking about Bella or stalking Bella), as well as the major revelation that Bella has a personality!! I read the original series in 2011, so my memory has been warped by time and, dare I say, Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Bella, yet the Bella in Midnight Sun is virtually unrecognizable; she is intelligent, witty, and, most importantly, brave. She confronts Edward, challenges him, and is mysterious and astute in her behaviour. This portrayal enables the reader to fall in love with her alongside Edward, and to comprehend his fixation with her beyond her scent.
I investigated who else auditioned for the role of Bella and discovered Jennifer Lawrence and Lily Collins. Based off their other work, and arguably unfairly, I believe Lawrence would have played a sullen Bella in similar manner as Stewart, but Collins might have shown Bella’s innocence in a charming and refined way.
But can you blame Stewart for her characteristic gloominess? There is no evidence that she read Bella’s character through the eyes of Midnight Sun, though Pattinson did read excerpts to evaluate his own character (which, surprise, surprise I believe he plays perfectly) and, until reading Midnight Sun, I had not once thought Stewart’s Bella was any different from the original novels, and never questioned her casting. However, Bella’s ability to play Edward at his own games, challenge him and (admittedly unconsciously) block him from reading her thoughts, creates an immense chemistry that 10-year-old me did not pick up on when reading the original books. I don’t intend it to imply that I was dense and naive in 2011, though I almost certainly was – again, another post, but I don’t think Bella was characterized as having that much substance. Thus, if only to understand why Edward waits a century for Bella, I recommend reading Midnight Sun.
As for other reasons, there are of course ways to explore the deeper exposition and characterisation of Edward and his adopted family without having to read Midnight Sun and as a die-hard Twilight fan, I’m not ashamed to admit that I knew all the characters’ backstories before reading the latest instalment. However, Meyer frames the retelling of the past to construct the present and provide context for Edward’s motivations and behaviours. The realisation that he loves Bella is because of his reflections on his own past and the journey he took to be sitting rather creepily in the shadows of her bedroom (okay, yes, he is a bit strange at times and he should not refer to them as children nor himself as a sadomasochist). However, via Edward’s exploration into the past, we gain a better understanding of the miseries of immortality as well as shedding light on Rosalie’s hatred of Bella beyond the moments immediately leading up to her death.
Finally, this brings me to one of the novel’s most common criticisms: it gives the monster a voice. The forbidden romance takes on additional meaning when told from the perspective of the forbidden individual. Edward’s dubious romanticism and obsessive behaviour casts serious doubt on whether their love is desirable or even healthy. However, his kindness and underestimation of Jacob, as well as his desire to leave Bella, which he is unable to fulfil due to his love, provide a deeper understanding of the series as a whole, as well as allowing the reader to return to Forks and the world of teen drama, romance, and angst that is so familiar and oh so meme worthy.