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Book Review: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

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Just when it seemed like the world could not hold any more incarnations of the vampire story, Stephenie Meyer stepped in with her Twilight series a few years ago. Suddenly, we have a phenom as addictive as Harry Potter, just slightly more sexy and with fangs. And just like the demise of the Potter series, Twilight has reached its inevitable conclusion just a few short months ago with the release of the final book, Breaking Dawn.

I find looking at Twilight in the same light as Harry Potter to be personally apropos. I didn’t become interested in the Potter stories until the first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was about to be released. Similarly, though I’d seen the starkly haunting images on the covers of Meyer's books in the young adult section of Borders for quite a long time, I didn’t take the time to look further into the series until chatter about a movie was floating around. And much like the first time I picked up the first book in the Potter series, I was instantly hooked by Twilight.


Some background on the story: Twilight is a young adult fantasy novel set in the here and now. The story’s heroine is Isabella “Bella” Swan, a high school junior who decides to leave her mother and her warm apartment in Phoenix to move in with her father in Forks, Washington. She’s not at all thrilled at the prospect, but she knows that it will make her mother happier to be able to travel with her new husband, who is a minor league baseball player. Bella’s taking the adult role in this relationship is nothing new, and with a brave smile and lots of false assurances that this is what she wants, Bella heads off to Forks in the middle of her junior year.

At first, she’s the talk of the town as the new girl. She also attracts the attention of just about every boy in the town limits. But Bella is not too comfortable in her own skin. She sees herself as plain, ordinary, clumsy, and horribly accident-prone. Like most teenage girls, she is terribly critical of every move she makes. When she attracts the attention of the mysterious Edward Cullen, though, her entire life is turned upside down.

The Cullen family has been a strange fixture in Forks for a few years by the time Bella moves into town. Carlisle is a brilliant young doctor and father to five adopted teens. Emmett, Rosalie, Alice, Jasper, and Alice stand apart from the other kids at the high school. They are unnaturally beautiful, still as death, more graceful than a Bolshoi veteran, and decidedly antisocial. Edward notices Bella and finds her unbearably attractive, so much so he could eat her — literally.

Yes, the secret to the Cullen family is that they are vampires, in no way related, but a family nonetheless. In fact, they are an anomaly within the vampire community because of how they are bonded by love. Carlisle is mated to his wife, Esme; Rosalie to Emmett; Alice to Jasper. Edward is the only one to not have found the other half to his soul. The Cullens are also different because of their “vegetarian” diet; they don’t feed off of humans, but rather dine on wild game of the grizzly or cougar variety.

Bella sets off more than one of Edward’s alarm bells. First is the incredible blood lust her scent generates for him. Second, he cannot hear her thoughts. One of his vampire gifts it telepathy, and Bella is the only exception he has met in more than a century. Third, he is inexplicably drawn to her, physically and emotionally, which makes for one hell of an internal conflict. But since the story is told from Bella’s perspective, we are left to our own imaginations as to what is going on in Edward’s head throughout this series.

Long story short, the first book details the dance these two lovers play in trying to figure out their relationship and the dangers involved. Despite the fact that loving a vampire means that the already ill-fated Bella is constantly in mortal danger, she is irrevocably bonded to Edward. He, on the other hand, continues to do what he believes is “the right thing” to protect her and only ends up hurting Bella in the process.

In the second book of the series, we’re introduced to the Bella-Edward-Jacob Black love triangle. Edward and the rest of the Cullens leave Forks at the beginning of New Moon as a way to protect Bella from the dangers of being associated with creatures whose nature is to eat her alive. As a result, she spirals downward into a deep depression that nearly kills her. But sparking up a new platonic relationship with her friend, Jacob, she finds some measure of relief. A series of events follow that endanger her life again, and she in turn ends up having to save Edward, which sparks their reunion. Edward soon realizes that he can’t be without her.

Eclipse is the third book in the series. From the end of Twilight, Bella has been begging to be turned into a vampire, an idea that Edward opposes. In Eclipse, the triangle of Bella-Edward-Jacob deepens and comes to a head at the end, when Jacob learns that Bella is engaged to marry Edward. Through more battles, manipulation, and another attempt on her life, Bella comes to realize she loves them both, but is committed to Edward. Jacob flees to escape his pain, and Bella and Edward move forward with their plans to wed.

This is where Breaking Dawn picks up. Finally, this Romeo has his Juliet and they tie the knot. It is all very opulent, with the fashion fanatic Alice in charge of everything. Jacob returns to show Bella his support as a friend, but as he is so opposed to her becoming a vampire, he loses his cool and has to be taken away from the wedding by his pack. Oh yeah, did I mention Jacob is a werewolf, the natural enemy of vampires?

To complicate matters, Edward and Bella’s honeymoon results in more than just the loss of each other’s innocence. Bella gets pregnant, something which neither she nor the Cullens knew was even possible. The baby progresses at an alarming rate, and though the Cullens are split on what should be done with the unknown creature that is breaking Bella’s body from the inside out and draining her of every ounce of life she possesses, Bella refuses to abort. Over the course of only a few weeks, she’s close to delivery, but can’t move due to her baby’s preternatural strength.

Pretty much everyone involved believes that the child will be an abomination, with the exception of Bella, Rosalie, and Esme. Jacob clings to Bella, afraid for her life. Then at the most inopportune time, the baby starts to try to rip its way out of Bella’s stomach, which leaves Edward and Jacob responsible for handling the “birth” all on their own. Bella hovers close to death as a result, and Edward has no choice but to turn her into a vampire. Jacob is so outraged at the pain the child has caused Bella and the possibility of her death that he seeks out the baby to kill her. When he sees her, however, his whole world changes; he recognizes his fated mate in the baby’s intelligent gaze.

As a vampire, Bella finds her true self and believes that this was her destiny all along. She is strong, agile, talented, and incredibly beautiful. She gradually adjusts to all of the new changes and the revelation of being a mother to an impossible child, Renesmee (a combination of her mother and mother-in-law’s names). Renesmee is sweetness and light incarnate, if you overlook her diet of blood and her uncanny ability to communicate her thoughts by touching your face. She is a half human, half vampire who is extremely mentally developed. In fact, they estimate by her physical and mental growth, she’ll reach maturity in just seven years. All who know her instantly fall in love with the little sprite.

Many obstacles and questions must be answered before that elusive happily ever after can finally be attained, though. Trouble comes their way when another vampire spies the child and assumes she is a converted human, which is against vampire law. She flees to inform the Volturi, the vampire equivalent of a governing body, royal family, and army rolled into one. The Cullens soon prepare for battle in an effort to save their lives, Renesmee, and their way of life, as well as to gain an understanding of what this child really is.

I have to say, Breaking Dawn took a most unexpected turn for me. I actually could not decide if I liked it or not until I was about three-quarters through the book. Even writing this now, I’m not sure I’m 100 percent behind the way the series ends. That said, I think that Meyer did do a nice job in tying up the myriad storylines from the whole saga and even left the door open for a related series down the road.

All of the books in the Twilight series must be read multiple times, I think, because of the nuance and clues that make much more sense once you know the whole storyline. I also think you need that much time to digest the story as a whole. It is like a huge story told over four rather lengthy books and the only way to wrap your brain around it is to take it in in chunks over and over.

Now, Twilight the film comes out next month, and I’m wondering if I’m going to be facing another Potter-like situation where I am disappointed with the adaptation. I’ve already seen from the trailers that some of the storyline had been altered and some aspects of New Moon introduced here. I’m also not sure if the story told over the course of the rest of the series is really suited for a continued string of films. I guess we shall wait and see.

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About Robin Kavanagh

  • SB

    These books are terrible, what with the purple prose and the Mary Sue-ness of Bella. Yack. The dialogue is cringeworthy and the dialogue tags (he sighed, she groaned, he hissed, she sighed, she sighed, AND THEN SHE SIGHED AGAIN) are even worse.

    Then there’s the anti-feminism in the book…Bella has no hopes and dreams other than EdwardEdwardEdwardEdward. She doesn’t even think about college or a career. Meanwhile she’s constantly falling over or fainting, giving Edward the excuse to carry her and follow (read: stalk) her everywhere. Then Edward leaves and she falls apart to the point where we get three months’ worth of blank pages — what, Bella’s life isn’t important enough without a boy in it for Meyer to describe? After that Edward BREAKS BELLA’S CAR so she can’t see Jacob, but oh, she’s ok with it all.

    In Breaking Dawn Meyer fails at biology with the demon Loch Ness Monster spawn. Jacob creepily imprints on the demon baby (shuddershuddershudder). Elizabeth Hand in the WashPost said it best: “Reader, I hurled.” And we get a bunch of vamp characters, described in intricate detail, who serve no purpose whatsoever. Then…NOTHING HAPPENS. Everyone stands around talking and then it ends. No war or fight. Nobody dies. Nobody sacrifices anything. OH, WHAT A THRILL.

  • lucy

    its about love you
    why do people have to be so rude
    and try to depict it badly
    if they dont like it
    dont read all 4 and move on
    with there life

    i loved all the books and i think she ended it very well

  • I find the claims that these books are somehow anti feminism because bella doesn’t get to college or is obsessive over a career is silly. Feminism is about deciding what you want and having the ability to go for it. I”ve yet to see where your only a feminist if you go to college and have a career. Bella is given a series of obstacles to deal with because she is dealing with the world of vampires. I found the books fun to read and enjoyed the emotional journey they take you on. These books have also allowed my teenage daughter and I to talk about relationships and a variety of other subjects all within the framework of the story. Neither of us have felt that Bella is somehow less of a person because she has gotton married or,*gasp* has an unexpected pregnancy. How many women have had their lives not work out as planned and learn to make the best of the situation? Most of us I dare say. Life is not perfect and learning to take control when life knocks you around a little is important to see examples of.

  • SB

    “Feminism is about deciding what you want and having the ability to go for it. I”ve yet to see where your only a feminist if you go to college and have a career.”

    Feminism is about choice, sure. But it’s also about being a complete woman on your own, with or without a man by your side. Bella is hardly complete without Edward. Her entire world is Edward. That’s it. She wraps herself up in him until there’s nothing else. Even her relationships with her parents are only half-assed, and she doesn’t even care.

  • Robin Kavanagh

    I don’t think I agree with that assessment. I have always through of Bella as a kind of weak character. My sister read Breaking Dawn before me, and I asked her to tell me without revealing too much about the story, if Bella grows a backbone before the series ends. She said yes.

    What I find interesting is that she does this after becoming a vampire. I think that this new inner strength comes from finally becoming what she was meant to be. I don’t think you can apply the rules of feminism to vampires in this universe, as it seems that vampires are not ruled by the same natural laws.

    Humans do not have the deep relationships, the primal connections that Meyer’s vamps do. There is this primal need to be with that mate that doesn’t exist in reality. I think this is the source of Bella’s un-feminist (if that’s even a word) attraction to Edward. It’s a primal thing that is really given no explanation in the book other than the two are drawn to each other. That Bella is not fated to be a human is the reason her relationships with other humans are shallow. She is a true vampire by nature, and when she met her mate, her mental and physical reaction was not human.

    I too thought it was a little over the top the way she couldn’t function without Edward, but he too was not able to function without her. It works both ways, so again, I don’t think feminist ideology applies.

  • SB

    “It’s a primal thing that is really given no explanation in the book other than the two are drawn to each other.”

    Well, why isn’t it explained? That’s just bad storytelling, and you can’t call it canon if that’s the case.

    It’s also lame because while humans may not have “primal connections” the way Meyer’s vamps do, she needs to make us understand why Bella and Edward are attracted to each other on a completely human level. Otherwise it just doesn’t seem believable. I am a human and I understand only human emotions UNLESS vampire emotions are explained to me. I have no clue why these two people are drawn to each other other than they’re very pretty with the topaz eyes and the sculpted marble chest and (if you read the creepy hilarity that is Midnight Sun) Bella’s blushing pink cheeks.

  • Robin Kavanagh

    Pop fiction, especially genre fiction, is almost never cannonical. Twilight will never be studied in universities as part of the cannon. So that’s really irrelevant.

    Also consider who Meyer’s audience is: young adults. Teenagers. They are not looking as in-depth into the motivations of the characters as adults are. These primal emotions and attractions are really what we wish we could have in many cases. It’s the whole reason the romance genre is so popular. It creates emotions and realities that are never able to be attained in reality, but on a basic level, we wish were possible. That’s how we relate. We bring our own experience to the tale and the unreality portayed amplifies our own experience.

    Yeah, I earned that master’s degree in creative writing, but never thought it would turn me into someone who analyzes to death a story I read for entertainment. Live and learn!

  • SB

    “Pop fiction, especially genre fiction, is almost never cannonical. Twilight will never be studied in universities as part of the cannon. So that’s really irrelevant.”

    What do you mean? I was referring to canon as the body of Stephenie Meyer’s writing. Whatever you extrapolate or fanwank is fanon. Your theory of the “primal” feelings is fanon or fanwanking, because Smeyer never said that in her book.

    “Also consider who Meyer’s audience is: young adults. Teenagers. They are not looking as in-depth into the motivations of the characters as adults are. ”

    Let’s give teens some credit. They’re not all stupid and shallow. Susan Cooper’s the Dark is Rising sequence is a children’s book. So is Harry Potter. Judy Blume’s books are meant for children and teens. I could name a thousand more. And those books all include fully developed likeable characters whose motivations make sense. Also, those books SHOW, not TELL. They don’t feature purple prose all over the place. The dialogue tags don’t make you want to do something violent.

    I really don’t want to discourage kids from reading. I hope the teens who found these books are encouraged to read more, to find more books in the libraries and bookstores where they found the Twilight series. What I don’t understand is how Twilight can ever be considered great literature when it is nothing more than a trashy teen romance.

  • Robin Kavanagh

    “What do you mean? I was referring to canon as the body of Stephenie Meyer’s writing. Whatever you extrapolate or fanwank is fanon. Your theory of the “primal” feelings is fanon or fanwanking, because Smeyer never said that in her book.”

    I see some serious flaws in your reasoning here, especially since you refer to “fanon.” What I am talking about here is what is shown and not told: this elemental/primal emotional connection between vampires. Meyer describes it through Carlisle/Esme; Rosalie/Emmett; and Jasper/Alice when she describes each of their histories throughout the series. She did not come out in so many words and say that this is such a connection, but did so in the way she developed the mating of vampires. That’s the reason Victoria spent two books stalking Bella for revenge of her mate’s death. That’s the reason the vamp from Alaska went to the Volutri about Renesmee. This is simple character/story analysis. And if you were talking about the canon of the series, you should have said so. Referring “the canon” is something entirely different.

    “Let’s give teens some credit. They’re not all stupid and shallow.”

    I never said they were. They are not as sophisticated as adult readers, however, which is one reason why over scenes depicting sex are not part of YA lit. Sex is had and implied, but not described. YA readers, by virtue of their age and experience, are a much different audience than adults. Their interests and levels of understanding are different. They can relate better to the Bella/Edward relationship better because its evolution is more of a reflection of what they see in high school.

    Do I think Meyer over simplifies? Yes. Do I think she wants for better language? Sure. Do I think her stories lag in places? Yes. But I take all of this with a grain of salt and consider all of the angles. I am not a member of the “fandom” and have not looked at what others say about the series. I form my own opinions based on my perceptions and knowledge.

    “What I don’t understand is how Twilight can ever be considered great literature when it is nothing more than a trashy teen romance.”

    Whoever said it was “great literature”? I certainly didn’t. Series like Twilight are not meant to be great lit; they are genre fiction with a specific purpose. Meyer took a cool little spin on vampire lore and made it specific to the YA audience. While flawed, I think it accomplishes its goal.

    And for the record, I am a fan of the Potter series, as well. But I am not thrilled about Rowling’s writing in general. She too has a lot of purple language throughout her books, lingers on scenes of inaction (the entire middle section of Deathly Hallows anyone?) and is horribly passive in her language. Does it make me like or respect her series any less? Nope.

  • Alice Sterling

    Yay! I love this series!!! and I actually screamed when the book seller person at the desk gave me my own copy of Breaking Dawn! Lol
    I get mad at my friends when they talk bad about Twilight sometimes… heh heh and I just kinda scream when I hear the word Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse or Breaking Dawn!

    I am a Twilight for all of eternity

  • danny

    i like happy endings but the journey it takes to get there in breaking dawn left me utterly disappointed and makes me feel like the happily-ever-after comes too easily. and i wasn’t as excited for edward and bella in the end as i expected. it all seemed like a smooth ride with no prominent conflict, struggles, or obstacles. during the entire novel stephenie meyer kept leading the readers into thinking something big might happen next with the way she paces the story, but the final solution always comes too easy or the problem just solves itself. among the many problems with the book, i find the weak pacing the biggest.

  • Lea

    Honestly, I agree with many of the opinions the readers have given above. I have not yet finished the final book, but I am eager to spoil the ending for myself. I find that Meyer trudges through her books rather slowly, adding information and conversations between the characters that I find unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, I am really enjoying the Twilight series, I love the way that Stephanie creates such a strong pull and understand between the reader and character. Its quite moving. Yet, I am VERY disappointed that I have spoilt the ending and it is not as i had hoped it would turn out. There is no Fight? No Conflict? AT ALL? Just talking and persuading? It is suddenly far less appealing for me to bother finishing the book. Wasn’t a HUGE fight what Meyer had been building up to for those 600 and something pages before the climax? Is there NO CLIMAX?!

    I am sad to hear the ending is so crappy. I was waiting, sweating in my chair (Not literally..Haha.) for a large-scale battle. Wasn’t that the entire point of the story?

  • takeya

    i really love all 4 of the books. and it’s really gets me mad when i hear people say “oh it sucks, boring, no action, blah blah blah” if you dnt like it you dnt like it. no one told you to read the books in the first place, just move on with ur life if you dnt like it. anywayz i’m really happy stephenie wrote these books, she did a fantastic job. i hope she isn’t listening to anyones rude negative comments either as long as she knows she still have people who adore these books like me it doesn’t matter. ihope she continues writing Midnight Sun i really wanted to read that now i have to wait longer. i hope she makes a move for new moon, eclispe and breaking dawn too. I CANT WAIT FOR TWILIGHT the film by the way

  • JamesP7

    Twilight sucks
    Read Harry Potter

  • safa

    i love twilight and i really dont like reading but after i read these books i was completely amazed. my mind was blown away ive already read all the books 8 times and im really looking forward to the saga. i give all the credit to stphenie bacause she made these books so amazing and the movie looks so great well i just cant wait for the rest of the books and her accomplishments in life and im really lookin gforward to it and for those of u who dont like these books…..GET A LIFE!

  • Anonymous

    Read a real book.

    For those who love Edward, I only have this to say – I, too, want a man who will break my bones and cause me to black out due to the sheer overwhelming awesomeness of the sex (read:rape), and who will then have to rip my uterus apart three months later in order to free me from having a child inside me that just broke my spine. Isn’t that so romantic?

  • Alex

    I really like the Twilight series i don’t think that there is anythin wrong with it. Edward and Bella are such a cute couple in the movie. Plus Robert Pattinson(Edward)is so hot!! Especially when he smiles!!

  • Ian

    I’m wondering who else here knows that Stephenie Meyer plagiarized teen author Jordan Scott’s vampire love story The Nocturne. Having heard these types of rumors about Meyer before, I’m not surprised…but knocking off a teenager’s first book — THAT’S low. That’s seriously low, even for you, Meyer. Instead of Breaking Dawn, you should have called this cheap imitation “The Knock-off”.

    So, it’s no wonder that Breaking Dawn was such a weird ending to the series. No wonder it didn’t fit in. No wonder that Meyer told the public in 2006 that she was going to struggle to meet her publishing deadline to get Breaking Dawn out by August 2008. And it’s no wonder Meyer admitted that she “worked with” and “based” Breaking Dawn on another novel which she “won’t mention the name of”.

    It’s no lie. Take a look at the similarities for yourself.

  • Andrea S.

    “Won’t mention the name of”? Says who? The second work that she based Breaking Dawn on has absolutely been mentioned: it is the Merchant of Venice.

  • bridget

    Edward is sooooooooooo hot in the movie twilight

  • SherylAnne

    I personally think that the Twilight books are very entertaning. They add something new out there, something way more intruiging than the Harry Potter books. You actually get hooked on by the first sentence. The books aren’t too long, and the stories aren’t drawn out, so this was good too.

    I think that any accounts of anti-feminism in these books are incorrect. Anti-feminism has absolutely nothing to do with these books. It has to do with the dreams and desires of a girl. Obviously Bella didn’t dream of going to college, so this is simply the wish of a character, not a jesture of anti-feminism.

    Anyway, I would strongly reccomend this series to any young adult who wants good reading material.

  • TJ

    I kinda liked the thwilight saga:)
    Just a question: Which is the first book breaking dawn is based on?

  • dell

    i LOVE the twilight series and hope meyer writes more. though, i haven’t got to the 4th book i’m sure it will turn out fine

  • tilly

    i love the twilight series soooo much, i really want to read the 4th book breaking dawn but i couldn’t be stuffed to buy it could somebody please tell me where to read it on the internet!!!!

  • tilly

    breaking dawn sounds gross and isn’t bella to young to have a baby?

  • Molly

    To be honest I couldn’t stand the books. They made me roll my eyes and think “Oh god, another teeny bopper vampire lustmance.” I couldn’t stand the characters, there was no plot, and there was no romance. I couldn’t see any emotional bond between Edward and Bella. They just seemed to lust after each other rather than actually love each other

    As for the antifeminist remarks, I’d have to agree with them. It’s true you don’t need a college plan or a career to be a feminist but you should at least have a life outside of your boyfriend. Bella can’t live or breathe without Edward by her side. She completely forsakes any life she had for him. She even said that she was his satellite and he was her sun or something to that effect. Her obsession with him is ridiculous and sickening. Almost as bad is how, no matter what he does, she instantly forgives him. She never stands up for herself. She simply crawls around pretty much useless and never doing any thing. She waits for the guys before she does anything. She never tells Edward off for anything even when he goes behind her back. I am completely repulsed by her.

  • aish

    its a great book… what’s all ur problems…if u dont like it why do u read it??????