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The excitement when Stephanie Meyer announced that she was releasing a brand-new Twilight book in 2020 followed me until I had Midnight Sun in my own hands. The Twilight Saga was such a major part of my life when I was 13 that I was thrilled to have a new installment that clocked in at 750 pages.
Midnight Sun is essentially Twilight, the first novel in the series, told from Edward’s point of view. Meyer takes you through Edward’s thoughts and internal struggles: his fear of hurting Bella, his desire to keep her safe, and his passionate love for her. Engaging and interesting, I read it in huge chunks, fascinated to see the same events from a completely different perspective. My particular favourites were the infamous baseball scenes and the chase with the tracker: framed from Edward’s perspective, they take on new life and remain as thrilling as they were the first time around.
However, the more I thought about Midnight Sun, the more issues I took with it. Undoubtedly, Meyer is a good writer. Not many people could essentially write the same book 3 times (including Life and Death, the gender-flipped alternate universe Twilight) and keep it topping the bestseller lists. But that’s the issue; Meyer has written the same book 3 times.
Some of the best parts of Midnight Sun involve Edward thinking about his past because we originally know so little about it. We get to find out more about him and the Cullens. However, in the parts where Edward and Bella are navigating their new relationship, it does seem very repetitive, as the same thing has been covered already from Bella’s perspective in Twilight.
Another glaring issue is Bella’s complete lack of agency. At first, it isn’t obvious because until the tracker arrives they’re just in high school doing their thing. But, when the tracker begins to hunt Bella, she is repeatedly ignored when she says that she wants to check on Charlie and, when she offers an idea for escape, she is snapped at by Edward. I couldn’t help but compare this to another fantasy series, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, and the couples who feature there. Being listened to and having your agency respected is one of the key themes of the second book, and Midnight Sun fell short of anything like a respectful relationship.
This isn’t new criticism for the Twilight Saga. Some argue that Edward and Bella’s relationship is unhealthy and that it promotes an ‘anti-woman’ message. However, Meyer has always refuted these claims, stating that the books hinge on Bella’s choices and that everything that happens is something that Bella chooses.
Reading Midnight Sun as a 21-year-old, it’s easy to see the issues associated with Bella and Edward’s relationship. But, as a 13-year-old first reading these books, all I wanted was a vampire boyfriend exactly like Edward (I was Team Edward all the way!). Edward is undoubtedly domineering over Bella – which Meyer says is due to her fragile status as a human next to near-invincible vampires – and it doesn’t paint a good picture of a healthy relationship. As much as I enjoy the Twilight books, I will always remain extremely critical of the central relationship.
As a new addition to the franchise, Midnight Sun holds up exceptionally well due to Meyer’s talent as a writer, but did we need yet another retelling of the first book? I would say no – instead, a prequel or a sequel might have been the breath of fresh air Twilight fans need.