New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

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New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Being in love with a vampire is a dangerous place to be...when your best friend also starts acting strange and there's something killing people in the gets very complicated indeed. Bella doesn't want any fuss on her 18th birthday, but when the family throw a party anyway, and she manages to cut her finger opening presents, the smell of blood is just too much... Love, friendship, betrayal and loss - all the pain of a trying to hold life within acceptable limits in a world where the myths walk among you.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 608 Date: September 2007
Publisher: ATOM
ISBN: 978-1904233886

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It's Bella's birthday. She is turning 18. This is a very bad thing for Bella; she really doesn't want to think about it, doesn't want to be reminded of it, no presents, no fuss, absolutely NO party.

Of course, your friends and family, and your friends' family aren't going to listen to you on something like this are they? So it is with Bella. Her boyfriend's family go ahead and organise a party anyway... which is where everything starts to go even more wrong than Bella could have imagined.

To start with Edward Cullen (the boyfriend) is different. He is unbelievably beautiful, he is very cold to the touch, and as hard as granite. He can hear your thoughts. None of which would matter particularly, were it not for the reason for all of these things: he is a vampire.

Oh, one of the good ones, obviously. The Cullens are more of a collective, than a family - linked not by blood, but by their swearing off it (off the human kind anyway). They do everything in their power to stay away from temptation.

The reason that Bella doesn't want the fuss and the party, is that she really doesn't want to think about turning 18. Edward is 17. Will always be 17. That was the age at which he became 'immortal' and the age at which he will remain until finally, by the limited means that work, he dies.

Bella and Edward are in love. For that reason, she wants him to take her... to change her, make her one of them. So that she too would remain forever 17, forever with Edward in the spring of their love. For that reason, Edward will not do it. For all that he has seen, he still believes in heaven and hell, and his conviction is that the gift of 'immortality' (which isn't quite what it seems) robs the person of their truly immortal soul. He will not do that to Bella.

So Bella will age, and Edward will not.

If only that were all she had to deal with.

This is the second in Meyer's series of romantic vampire stories, so Bella is well-acquainted with the Cullens and what they can and cannot do. It is a secret she does well to keep - given that she has already been hunted and attacked by some of the less human-friendly of Cullen kin in the previous book. There is in the early pages, a suggestion of unfinished business.

Not that it plays on Bella's mind too much. For all her personal experiences of the dark side, she displays a typical teenage obsession with Romeo and Juliet (disguised as doing English Lit homework) and a lovesick confidence that all will be well. Eventually.

So she gives in, and goes to the party.

Opening presents, she cuts her finger. A tiny paper-cut. A single drop of blood... enough to spark panic among the Cullens, not all of whom have the self-control of Carlisle (who has steeled himself through years of working in E.R.). Leaping to her defence against a possible attack from his kin, Edward sends her crashing through the buffet table, glass plates fall and shatter, Bella is badly cut... and there is too much blood to be ignored...

... and Bella's world is turned upside down, inside out, and she discovers what emptiness really means.

Meanwhile, her best friend has suspicions about the neighbourhood gang, and someone or something is killing people up on the forest trails.

What follows is not a horror story, but a love story. Doomed love. Star-crossed in every sense of the expression.

Myths and legends from Europe and from the Native American traditions are re-spun and intertwined to create a narrative of intriguing simplicity. At base, I have to concede that it is merely a vampire high school romance... but Meyer's prose lifts it above the mainstream. Her descriptions of heartbreak are vivid enough to provoke a tear from anyone who has ever been there; her plot is tightly controlled so that even where the links become obvious ahead of the play, you can believe in the slowness of the characters' catching on.

Not only does the suspense work, but the characterisation is such that about half-way through you find yourself with split loyalties...simple ethics are revealed as being no more than value-judgements, which depend entirely upon which side of the fence you sit - and if you're astride it with a foot in each camp, how then should you decide?

In the States Meyer took the top-slot in the listings from J K Rowling and it takes no imagination at all to see why a girl raised on Harry Potter would (mid-teens) slide happily into the world of Cullen & Swan. Although clearly a 'teenage' book, this is one that deserves to cross into the adult market.

For all the supernatural content, however, I suspect that it is one that appeals to the female mind, rather than the male. The focus is heavily on emotion and motivation. The action scenes work well, but there are few of them, the supernatural is just that... 'super' but 'natural'. There is no horror. The real nastiness happens off-stage.

From an adult perspective the Romeo & Juliet analogy would have worked better with less obvious cross-reference, but for those just discovering Shakespeare some interesting questions are posed.

I'm obliged to give the caveat that this isn't quite a stand-alone, although it can be read as such. It leaves you wanting more, rather than worrying what you've missed. The third book in the series (Eclipse) is already on the shelves and, allegedly, a fourth is taking shape.

Meanwhile Kristen Scott has been signed up to take the role of Bella in the film version of the first instalment.

The story is not over yet...

... and I for one will be back to find out how it continues, before the film-makers distort the images I've already formed.

If this appeals then you might also like The Fury by L J Smith.

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Alison Locatelli said:

very nice review! I enjoyed reading it and hope that she writes more.

Lesley replied:

Eclipse - the next in the series is currently available in hardback. Review here. And we're told that there is a fourth on the way.