Midnight Sun, the new book in the Twilight series, was released on August 4, 2020. It was also released in 2008, sort of, when a leak of an early draft of the book’s first half reached the internet, dissuading author Stephenie Meyer from completing the rest of it in a move that didn’t not feel like she was punishing fans for passing notes in class. Now those Twihards are all grown up, and those who are so inclined can read the full version of Midnight Sun, a retelling of the first Twilight book from Edward’s perspective, as what it is: a nearly 700-page fanfic exercise. It took me, a lifelong Twilight fan, two whole weeks to read it and not just because I’m dumb. It’s also … pretty bad. Here are the most notable moments from our annotated reading:
The motif of Midnight Sun is pomegranates. Edward draws a comparison between his and Bella Swan’s plight and the story of Hades and Persephone, countering the biblical apple motif of the first Twilight book with the next most biblical fruit. If you think it’s deployed gracefully, you thought wrong. Also, Hadestown and Portrait of a Lady on Fire both do Persephone better, neither hitting you over the head with pomegranates.
• “I saw Persephone, pomegranate in hand. Dooming herself to the underworld” (p. 193).
• “Every word we spoke here — each one of them was another pomegranate seed” (p. 213).
• “One too many pomegranate seeds, and she was bound to the underworld with me” (p. 315).
• “This was a dangerous path to even hint at. Hades and his pomegranate. How many toxic seeds had I already infected her with?” (p.365).
• “A flicker of unease twisted my expression. I thought of pomegranate seeds for the first time in a while” (p.470).
• “Because what would hurt Bella the most? I couldn’t escape the truest answer. Pomegranate seeds and my underworld” (p.615).
Edward and Bella collectively sigh 168 times. They’re averaging a sigh every four pages.
Iconic Moments From Edward’s Perspective
“I was a predator. She was my prey. There was nothing else in the whole world but that truth. There was no room full of witnesses — they were already the collateral damage in my mind. The mystery of her thoughts was forgotten. Her thoughts meant nothing, for she would not go on thinking them much longer” (p. 17).
So that’s what Edward was thinking in the famous scene when he smells Bella: about killing a classroom full of high-schoolers. One page later, he thinks, “But then I would have to stop them from escaping. I wouldn’t have to worry about the windows, too high up and small to provide an escape for anyone. Just the door — block that and they were trapped.” There’s something too literal, too icky, too reminiscent of actual in-school gun violence about this whole part. On Bella’s end, in Twilight, it was sexy and scary and a little campy. In Midnight Sun, it’s just upsetting.
“A word I’d never said before in the presence of a lady slid between my clenched teeth” (p. 63).
Here’s an exciting new twist from the scene when Edward saves Bella from the car in the parking lot: He says fuck! We’re learning so much.
“No, I was calmer, but not better. Because I’d just realized that I could not kill the fiend named Lanny. The only thing in this moment that I wanted more than to commit a highly justifiable murder was this girl” (p. 183).
When Bella gets pursued down an alley by a would-be attacker in Port Angeles, Edward is close by and can hear the attacker’s malicious thoughts. Something about “the fiend named Lanny” takes some of the edge off, though.
“As I continued to classify, I added calculation. If there were currently 4,913 insects in the area of the meadow, which was roughly 11,035 square feet, how many insects on average would exist in the 1,400 square miles of the Olympic National Park? What if insect populations dropped 1 percent for each 10 feet of elevation? I brought up in my head a topographic map of the park and started computing the numbers” (p. 354).
Have you ever wondered what was running through Edward’s mind in the scene when he finally reveals to Bella that he sparkles in the sun? Was it romantic? Sensual? Midnight Sun gives you the answer, and it’s no. He distracts himself from how horny he is for her delicious, delicious blood by … thinking about bugs. This seems like something Robert Pattinson would actually do, so props for that.
“My first thought as I landed crouched in the shadows of the trees was her hands, and relief washed over me when I saw they were still attached to her wrists” (pp. 356–357).
When Bella first tries to kiss Edward and he pulls away, he thought he ripped off her hands.
“It was quite a small painting, no more than fifteen inches square. I guessed that it was older than the stone church that housed it. The artist was clearly untrained, his style amateurish. And yet, there was something in the simple, poorly wrought image that managed to convey an emotion. There was a warm vulnerability to the animals depicted, an aching kind of tenderness. I was strangely moved by this kinder universe the artist had envisioned” (p. 374).
Before he said the famous “and so the lion fell in love with the lamb” line, we learn that Edward flashed back to a painting of a lion laying with a lamb in an old Quaker church that he’d stumbled upon with Carlisle. On the nose, but sure.
“And there, on the other side, was a long line of flattened dirt, rolled as smooth as possible, about two hundred feet wide, stretching at least a mile to the west.
It was a private airstrip.
I cursed again.
I had been too focused on the water escape. There was an air escape, too” (p. 564).
If you remember from the first book, Bella flees to Phoenix after the baseball scene to escape James the vampire, who wants to hunt her down. What you didn’t see was an interminable hundred pages or so of indifferently written action, in which Edward, Emmett, and Carlisle chase James the vampire through the Canadian wilderness until he … flies a little plane down to Phoenix to kill Bella. It’s a lazy way out, and this summary is better than reading it. This book is so, so long, you guys.
“I took her face in my hands again, let the consuming love I felt for her fill my eyes, and lied with all the experience of a hundred years of daily deception.
‘I swear’” (p. 639).
When Edward tells Bella at the end of Twilight that he won’t leave her, he’s already planning to leave her.
Edward Has Hulk Powers
“My hand gripped under the edge of the table as I tried to hold myself in my chair. The wood was not up to the task. My hand crushed through the strut and came away with a palmful of splintered pulp, leaving the shape of my fingers carved into the remaining wood” (p. 18).
So we already knew vampires in the Twilight-verse are superstrong and superfast. But the amount that Edward’s narration in Midnight Sun focuses on his “Hulk smash!” strength is ridiculous and very funny, and Meyer plays it so straight. Here, he’s so thirsty for Bella’s blood he pulverizes a table.
“I accidentally uprooted the young spruce tree my hand was resting on when he pinched a strand of her hair between his fingers” (p. 164).
“‘How long can you go … without breathing?’
‘Indefinitely, I suppose; I don’t know.’ The longest I’d ever gone was a few days, all of it underwater” (p. 461).
So Meyer’s just going to tease us about a mermaid adventure Edward had one time, spending days underwater probably frolicking with dolphins and discovering Atlantis, without going further into it? The priorities in this book are in all the wrong places. Later, Edward hints that a vampire could easily swim all the way to Japan without surfacing.
Edward’s a Weirdo and Possibly an Incel
“I’d seen the new face repeated in thought after thought from every angle. Just an ordinary human girl. The excitement over her arrival was tiresomely predictable — it was the same reaction as one would get from flashing a shiny object at a group of toddlers. Half the sheep-like males were already imagining themselves infatuated with her, just because she was something new to look at” (p. 8).
Okay, so Edward’s first reaction to Bella is … less than romantic and frankly rude. “Sheep-like males” is also our first introduction to an ongoing question that plagued me throughout Midnight Sun: Is Edward an incel? This is /r/incel vocab 101.
“It was far better — essential — that I kept my thoughts far, far away from that shape, so I was grateful for the unbecoming sweater. I couldn’t afford to make mistakes, and it would be a monumental mistake to dwell on the strange hungers that thoughts of her lips … her skin … her body … were shaking loose inside me. Hungers that had evaded me for a hundred years. But I could not allow myself to think of touching her, because that was impossible. I would break her” (p. 226).
Are we to believe Edward wasn’t horny for 100 years?
“‘Music in the fifties was good. Much better than the sixties, or the seventies, ugh!’ Though there were certainly excellent outliers, the artists that were played most often on the limited radio options then were not my favorites. I’d never warmed up to disco” (p. 391).
Edward has bad taste in music.
“Uncomfortable, but manageable. More bearable than smelling her and not sinking my teeth through that fine, thin, see-through skin to the hot, wet, pulsing —” (p. 21).
This is some “wet and gushy” territory.
“I was just in time to hear him offer to be her badminton partner; as he made the suggestion, other partnerings with Bella ran through his mind. My smile faded, my teeth clenched together, and I had to remind myself that murdering Mike Newton was still not permitted” (p. 260).
One of the worst things about Midnight Sun is that Edward is constantly reading Mike Newton’s mind and Mike is constantly thinking about fucking Bella. He seemed so sweet in the other books!
“‘Oh,’ she gasped, a little flustered. She smoothed her shirt. Silly, she thought to herself. He’s almost young enough to be my son. ‘Hello, Edward. What can I do for you?’ Her eyelashes fluttered […] Too young, too young, she chanted to herself” (pp. 24–25).
The secretary at Forks High is a predator who needs to be fired.
“We were both done after one more. I was too full again, my insides feeling uncomfortably liquefied” (p. 320).
This is how Meyer describes Edward hunting. Not sexy! Gross! She uses the word sloshing too much.
“It was too far to make running an efficient option. We’d have to fly. And a big plane was the fastest way” (p. 568).
Lol. A big, big plane going vroom vroom through the sky was [looks directly into camera] the fastest way.
“I could say this for Arizona: The sun might be ridiculous, but the freeways were exceptional. Six wide, smooth lanes, with shoulders ample enough on either side that it was as good as eight” (p. 576).
This, in the middle of a car-chase scene. At the climax of the book. I cannot express how boring and packed with filler Midnight Sun is. When Bella’s not around, it’s just stuff like this.
“Rarely, extremely rarely, someone would guess right. We didn’t give them a chance to test their hypothesis. We simply disappeared, to become no more than a frightening memory. That hadn’t happened for decades” (p. 13).
Does that mean the Cullens have been in Forks for decades? Why do they move around if no one’s suspicious?
“It was doubtful Mr. Banner, a man of no more than average intellect, would manage to pull out anything in his lecture that would surprise someone holding two medical degrees” (p. 15).
We need to talk about Edward “holding two medical degrees” and still thinking that the most important element of his vampire illusion is attending 11th-grade chemistry.
“I swallowed Bella’s tear. Perhaps it would never leave my body. After she left me, after all the lonely years had passed, maybe I would always have this piece of her inside me” (pp. 453–454).
Edward goes into this whole page about vampire anatomy and how “blood was absorbed into our muscles and provided fuel” and how “our internal workings must be microscopically porous,” so if he eats Bella’s tear it will just sit in his tummy for all of time. Do vampires not pee? Or do they always pee blood? This section sparks so many more questions than it answers.
“Fat lot of good it will do her, Jessica went on. She’s really not even pretty. I don’t know why Eric is staring so much … or Mike” (p. 12).
And here is where we reach a huge problem with Midnight Sun. Maybe even worse than the pomegranates: Edward can hear people’s thoughts, which should make for some interesting narration, but as a narrator, Edward is deeply condescending and everyone’s thoughts are basically shallow if they’re girls, lightly horny if they’re boys. Although I do like the touch that Jessica (the Anna Kendrick character) thinks in phrases like “fat lot of good it will do her,” like she’s a judgmental aunt in a Jane Austen book.
“Unlike Carlisle, Tanya and her sisters had discovered their consciences slowly. In the end, it was their fondness for human men that turned them against the slaughter. Now the men they loved … lived” (p. 32).
After Edward first smells Bella, he’s so thirsty for her blood that he skips town and visits the other “vegetarian” vampire clan in Denali. It’s a massive tease because wouldn’t you rather read this vampire story? It’s a logline for a better book.
“I reached slowly for the camera and then, just as slowly, methodically crushed it into a pile of metal and plastic dust” (p. 624).
This is my biggest frustration with Midnight Sun. By following the story from a different character’s perspective, you think we’d have a chance to explore other things that were happening and get to see more of the Cullen and Denali vampire-clan dynamics. We could get a sense of the more thinly sketched characters or backstories. But Meyer consistently finds ways to just retell what she already told us, as when Edward watches the Saw-like camcorder tape that James the evil vampire recorded when he almost killed Bella and Edward saved her. Not only did we already see this scene happen from Bella’s perspective, we just spent pages on Edward’s perspective as he saved her (they mostly amount to “Mm-mmm, the blood is tasty”). Anyway, it made me laugh that he crushed the camcorder into dust. Nice touch.