I’m going to travel back to middle school for a second. There I was, 13 years old, staying up all night to binge-read the Twilight series, forgetting about all of my early teenage responsibilities and pretending that I had vampires falling in love with me left and right.
If you were anything like me as a child, you read the leaked version of Midnight Sun about 10 years ago, just to get a glimpse into Edward Cullen’s head. In August 2020, Stephanie Meyer released the full version, reigniting an obsession with the sparkly vampires that we all know and love.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience reading Midnight Sun and I actually thought that Edward’s POV introduced some improvements to the Twilight world. First, let’s discuss some negatives, because while Stephanie Meyer has always been able to make us swoon, she made some… interesting choices while writing this installment.
Things I Could Have Done Without
Edward is…. verbose
Okay, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE big books. I have been satisfied reading 1,000 page books in the past, so typically a 600 page novel would not spook me. But the original Twilight is 498 pages, while Midnight Sun totals at a whopping 658 pages.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. My issue with the page count is that instead of the story being extended in any way, it just felt like the extra 160 pages came from Edward thinking in circles. Obviously, this is an important aspect of his character. He does have to put a lot of thought into his relationship with Bella, but I don’t think the readers need 160 extra pages of him going back-and-forth between his options. (Should I marry her, or should I devour her? That is the question).
Tiny Detail Obsession
We all know that both Edward and Bella have an addiction problem: they are obsessed and addicted to each other. However, one thing that I was not expecting was how Edward latched onto very specific little details…. and how often we would have to read about them.
For instance, Bella wears a sweater in the middle of the book, and every time Edward looks at her all he can think about is how grateful he is that this sweater is the most hideous thing that he has ever seen, because it masks his desire. And this would be fine if it was mentioned once. However, once Bella wears this sweater the one time, it is constantly on his mind. Either he is grateful that she is wearing it, or he wishes she were wearing it. Also, when did Edward become a fashion critic? Last I checked, he wore a sleeveless, thin white collared shirt to the meadow (I’m not going to discuss Stephanie Meyer’s obvious lack of fashion sense, but if you read the book…. keep an eye out for the description of their clothing. Thankfully, the costume department for the films did not pay attention to these particular book details).
Edward also latches on to the word “dazzles.” This is something that we kind of know from the original Twilight novel, but while reading from his point of view we see that he is constantly thinking about how Bella was “dazzled” by him. Midnight Sun took this adorable piece of dialogue from the original story and beat us over the head with it in this installment. We get it. She thinks you’re hot, Edward.
Edward and Emmett: The Prankster Duo
Okay, don’t get me wrong. I love seeing the way that Edward and Emmett interact with each other, and Midnight Sun gave me a new appreciation for Emmett as a character. However, there was one scene that simply did not sit well with me.
Because Angela is the only friend that Bella has that has pure, friendly intentions with her relationship with Bella, Edward decides to do something nice for her. This is a sweet sentiment, especially because the Cullen family tends to avoid the humans at all costs, so the idea that Edward wants to positively impact her life was enjoyable to read.
However, I have logistical questions about the way he went about this. Edward and Emmett have a super weird and staged conversation in front of Angela’s crush, Ben, in order to entice him to ask Angela out. Emmett not-so-casually asks Edward if he is going to ask Angela out, and Edward not-so-casually says something along the lines of, “Nah, she’s not for me bro. But I think she has a thing for some guy named Ben?” which obviously makes Ben perk up.
I could not help but cringe when I read this scene for many reasons. 1.) Emmett and Edward have zero human communication skills and it shows. 2.) At this point in the story, everyone at school was talking about Edward and Bella’s new relationship. Now, nothing was official, but the school is small, and according to Edward, the two of them spending time together was on everyone’s mind. So how did Ben buy Edward being interested in Angela? Overall, this is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it bothered me immensely while reading it.
Edward Wants to Eat her…. Tears?
I have read Twilight many times in my life, and one scene that I always hated was when Bella goes to the Cullen’s for the first time, and he plays her lullaby for the first time in her presence. After Bella sheds a tear, Edward catches it with his finger and LITERALLY EATS IT.
I always thought that there had to be a reason. What was the point of that? I don’t think that anyone, in any romantic relationship, has done that. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it. So when I reached this moment in Midnight Sun, I braced myself for the sentence, and this is what we got:
“One tear still glistened in the corner of her left eye, shining in the brightness of the room. A tiny, clear piece of her, an ephemeral diamond. Acting on some strange instinct, I reached out to catch it with my fingertip. Round on my skin, it sparkled as my hand moved. I swiftly touched my finger to my tongue, tasting her tear, absorbing this minute particle of her” (pg. 444).
Strange is correct, Edward. That is genuinely the only word that can accurately describe this behavior.
The Tragic Portrayal of Rosalie Hale
I struggle to figure out whether Rosalie’s story throughout the series belongs in the positive or negative column of my opinions. On one hand, I think that she is one of the most interesting characters in Twilight, and we get to see even more of her in Midnight Sun to flesh her character out even more. But on the other hand, the way she is written portrays her in an unnecessarily negative light.
I understand that Edward is supposed to have mixed feelings about his sister. He loves her, but he also does not get along with her very well. My problem with the way that she is written is that she falls under many stereotypes that could have been avoided. She is vain, she is vile, and she cannot understand why someone would not be physically attracted to her. On top of that, her enhanced vampire trait is her beauty. The other characters got enhanced telepathy, emotional awareness, psychic visions, compassion, strength, and parental instincts. And Rosalie’s power is… enhanced beauty.
Rosalie was raped and beaten to death as a human. Carlisle found her in the street bleeding out. She was a victim of deadly sexual assault. She is a character that I want to empathize with, a character that I wish was written in a way that the readers could connect with her. Instead, in both Bella and Edward’s perspectives, she is portrayed as a nasty, jealous person. Stephanie Meyer took highly misogynistic assumptions about women and channeled all of them into this one character, who has the potential to be the most complex character in the series.
Things That Improved Upon The Original Story
The Cullen’s Connection
Reading from Bella’s point of view, we were always able to see that the Cullen family was bonded by experience and by proximity, and that over time they had all grown to love each other, even if that love was sometimes contentious. Reading the relationships that Edward had with each member of the family was fascinating, particularly when it came to Carlisle and Esme.
There has long been a debate within the Twilight fandom as to whether we should be treating Edward as a 17 year-old boy who was frozen, or if we should be treating him as a 109 year-old due to his maturity level. Midnight Sun shed some light on his relationship with his adoptive parents, and when we read about the nurturing love that Carlisle, and particularly Esme, unconditionally had for him, it is clear that, at least in the context of his family, he is just a boy. He is just as lonely and confused about his place in life as Bella is, though she is human.
Edward’s relationship with Emmett and Jasper feel authentically brotherly, and in my opinion not much changed what we know of them from the original story.
What I did find fascinating was his relationships with Alice and Rosalie. It is clear to see that Edward and Alice have one of the closest relationships within the family structure, most likely stemming from their unique abilities that allow them to communicate differently than the rest of the coven. Other than that, their personalities complement each other nicely. Alice is bubbly and pushy and slightly odd, whereas Edward is guarded and quiet, but opens up around people like Alice. Reading their relationship was a highlight of the novel for me. In contrast, Edward and Rosalie have an odd relationship dynamic. When Carlisle changed Rosalie, he originally thought that she would be a mate for Edward. When he showed little-to-no interest in a romantic relationship with her, she felt slighted as if this was a direct insult to her beauty and her character. This led to them having a rough relationship. Throughout Midnight Sun we see their tensions escalate as Edward starts bringing Bella into their lives more, and it is quickly realized that Rosalie will not be accepting the new addition, which leads to more conflict between them as the books continue.
Though most of this information is not necessarily new, it is interesting to see it from Edward’s perspective, especially because he can read their minds, giving us a more intimate look into their thoughts and feelings toward him.
Clean Up in Phoenix
I did not realize how much I wanted to know the details of how they explained Bella’s injuries to the medical team in Phoenix. In Twilight they explain the bare bones story to Bella, not worrying too much about the details because they figured that she, the girl who was severely injured, would be allowed a lack of clarity when it came to her physical state.
However, the readers were also left in the dark during Twilight. Midnight Sun clarified much of the details. We learned that Carlisle has a friend/colleague in Phoenix who trusts him, and therefore he would easily buy any realistic enough story that Carlisle fed him. We learned about more of the logistics behind how they cleaned up after James was killed, and their explanation of Bella’s injuries (she fell down the stairs and through a window – something we knew from Twilight, but was nice to see them concoct the story).
Overall, there was a much appreciated added layer of detail when it came to the logistics in the Cullens’ planning.
Newsflash…. Edward is a Vampire, not a Peeping Tom
This is going to be a controversial point, but I thought it was important to point out. One of the most consistent criticisms of Twilight is that Edward’s stalking in the beginning of the story is extremely problematic, and the fact that this is romanticized makes this story harmful to the readers.
I will not disagree with the fact that his behavior was predatory – it absolutely was. It is not romantic for a guy to follow you and watch you sleep. I am in no way combatting that statement. However, it is important to remember that Edward Cullen is a vampire. I know that the Twilight series does not portray the vampires that we know as vicious monsters, but that is who they are by nature. They feed on human blood, and they track and hunt their prey.
Edward did not fall in love with Bella at first sight. He fell in love quickly, sure, but his first instinct was to kill her, not love her. He had to literally hold himself back while he was in the same room as her, and according to Alice there was a high probability that he was going to murder her.
In Twilight his stalking and watching her sleep does feel a bit romanticized, because we don’t really see just how hard it was for Edward to hold himself back from killing her. He tells her this information, but until we read it for ourselves in Midnight Sun, this behavior does feel glorified.
Stephanie Meyer did a good job making that clear in Midnight Sun. The first time Edward watched her sleep through her window, he still hadn’t made up his mind on whether he was going to kill her or not. Him spying on her in this way is not the same thing as a normal teenage boy watching a girl change in her bedroom. Edward’s intentions were not sexual, they were predatory in a literal sense. Critics of the Twilight series need to remember that Edward is a vampire, and Bella was his prey. The romantic part of the story comes later when he goes against every natural instinct in his body to resist the urge to end her life in order to have a romantic relationship with her.
Swan Family Talent?
One of my favorite aspects of Midnight Sun was finding out that both Charlie and Renee’s thoughts were slightly abnormal when it came to Edward’s ability to read them. We know that Edward cannot read Bella’s thoughts, and this is what initially intrigues and bothers Edward when it comes to Bella’s existence. However, in the original series we are not informed that this is possibly genetic.
Edward reveals in Midnight Sun that Charlie’s thoughts are not as clear as the average person. Though Edward can see his thoughts, he cannot grasp them word-for-word. Often he can just tell what Charlie is feeling and how that correlates with his thoughts. He can see images and pick up on sentence fragments, but rarely can he pick out coherent thoughts from Charlie. This leads Edward to believe that he passed this trait onto Bella, and she was somehow able to block Edward out entirely.
When Edward discovers this about Charlie, he states how he wishes he could meet Renee, just so he could see if she had a unique ability in her mind as well. When Bella is in the hospital at the end of the book, Edward is finally able to meet her. Interestingly, Renee’s thoughts are louder and clearer than the average person. Now, this doesn’t necessarily correlate with Bella’s ability, but it is interesting that neither Charlie or Renee have normal thought patterns.
Set Up For New Moon
By far my favorite part of Midnight Sun was finally being able to see Edward contemplating when he is going to leave Bella. It’s tragic, and makes for a heartbreakingly beautiful ending that Twilight did not have. The original story leaves off with a determined and optimistic Bella, sure that she will end up becoming a vampire. She knows that Alice has seen it, and she knows that she is committed to loving Edward for the rest of her life – and she wants that life to be infinite.
When New Moon begins, Bella and the readers almost feel blind-sided by Edward leaving her. Don’t get me wrong, there are subtle hints that he feels their relationship should end in order to protect her, but for the most part, it seems to come out of nowhere.
Well, Midnight Sun starts building that storyline up early on. Throughout the novel, before Edward and Bella even start dating, we know that Edward is always one foot out the door, because he doesn’t think that he can be around her and keep her safe. They have one perfect day together and Edward allows himself to feel optimistic. However, as soon as we meet James, Victoria, and Laurent, he starts to think about how he made a huge mistake involving Bella in his world.
The hospital scene is pivotal in this book. Edward tells the readers not just that he is thinking about leaving, but that he will leave. It’s just a matter of finding the right time to do so. He doesn’t feel that it would be right to leave her while she is still injured from her last encounter with vampires, but he lets the readers know that as soon as he finds an out, he will leave her in order to protect her. And we know from the future books that the moment there is a small incident that puts her at risk (like a paper cut causing Jasper to go ballistic) he will sacrifice his own happiness to protect her life.
Though I did mention some minor issues that I had while reading this book, I am beyond happy that I got the chance to revisit my teenage years through this story. No matter how many critiques I hear of the story, how many men berate women for enjoying a story about “sparkly gay vampires”, and how many times I have to sit through the whole “but he watched her sleep” argument, I will always appreciate the memories that this series has given me.
Midnight Sun was well worth the ten year wait and I hope that Stephanie Meyer decides to continue with the series in his point of view (though I heard she was writing a Jacob/Renesmee book which… I am just going to go ahead and speak for the majority of the fandom and say that this is not the story we want to read).
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to watch the movies on repeat for the rest of the year.