Please enjoy my take on how Stephenie Meyer, author of the beloved and hated Twilight series, tanked her legacy by writing a terrible book.
In the summer of 2008, I was a young high school student and fanatically obsessed with the Twilight series. My love for Twilight was all-consuming. At one point, I unironically referred to the first book of the series as “my bible.” I also memorized the speech Edward gives Bella at the end of “New Moon.” The one about how her existence transformed his life and ruined him for all else.
“Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars, points of light and reason. …And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn’t see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason, for anything.”Stephenie Meyer, New Moon
I once performed this monologue at a party. It was not well-received.
My teenage self is still me, and I want to honor the good things, which led to me becoming who I am now. Occasionally, teenage me had good taste. She knew that “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a cool movie. She was pretty good at math, which helped me land a couple steady tutoring jobs in high school. She also knew not to date the mean guy who wrote his senior thesis on “dragons” (although it took her a few months to realize this).
The first three Twilight books, Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse, were all pretty fun reads. It’s been over a decade since I’ve read these books, so forgive me if my memory paints a nostalgic, rosy picture, but there was a lot to enjoy about this series. Of course, I loved the romance. I was a teenage girl, and Meyer handed me a three-book series about an epic love story set in a ridiculous fantasy setting. How could I resist? I also want to commend Meyer on her world-building. Her vampires (to my knowledge, at least) were unique. These were indestructible juggernauts who were impossibly beautiful and glittered in the sunlight. Sometimes these vampires could see into the future or read minds or influence the elements. They weren’t just vampires – they were superheroes. To my teenage brain, this was the dopest shit I’d ever read. The addition of werewolves in “New Moon” only sweetened the deal.
In addition to a rich fantasy world, Meyer also had an impressive Rolodex of unique characters, and I wanted to know about all of them. I needed to learn more about Alice, the young woman locked away in a mental hospital, only to wake up one day as a precognitive monster with no memory of her past. What about Leah, the only female werewolf in her tribe, unfairly maligned as “bitter and resentful” because she wasn’t over-the-moon about her ex-boyfriend marrying her cousin? Carlisle Cullen was a 300-year-old vampire who learned to control his violent, bloodthirsty nature to such an extent that he could practice medicine, and yet he still considered himself a damned creature of the night. These are just a few of the characters that Meyer dreamed into being, and I was obsessed with all of them.
Did the series have some “problematic” elements? Of course, it did. I was too young to pick up some of the unhealthy relationship dynamics between Edward and Bella, to name just one of the issues with this series. I had not yet understood the sheer gross-ness of their age difference. My teenage self was not a critical reader, despite the attempts of my English teachers. All I knew was that the series was fun and romantic. I want to say that my tastes have evolved, but then I read all of Ice Planet Barbarians and Icehome in two months, so not much has changed.
I say this to speed up how I reacted to “Breaking Dawn” when it was released in 2008. If there was a theme to connect the entire series so far, I think it would be “sacrifice.” Bella always understood that if she wanted to live her authentic life, it would require sacrifice. If she wanted to be with Edward, she would have to sacrifice her human relationships, including the tenuous trust she had built with her father, Charlie. If Bella wanted to be a vampire, she would have to sacrifice her humanity and all that came with it. If she wanted to choose a relationship with Edward over Jacob, she would sacrifice a dear friendship. She didn’t always make the right choices, but she was making choices. All of these sacrifices gave the series an undercurrent of sadness. Bella can’t have it all. She shouldn’t have it all. But we supported Bella’s choice because she articulated again and again that it was what she wanted, and she was willing to make those sacrifices.
Enter “Breaking Dawn.” I had no idea how this book was going to play out. I don’t think anyone did. To summarize the book: Edward and Bella get married, Edward impregnates Bella with a half-vampire baby, Bella almost dies in childbirth, comes back as a vampire, Jacob “imprints” on the baby, and drama follows because the baby is weird and upsets the natural order of vampiric things. It is not good.
My hypothesis: This book is so awful that had it not existed, or at least been slightly better, the obscene amounts of vitriol aimed towards this series and Meyer herself would not exist. So, where do I begin?
Meyer employed a unique narrative twist in Breaking Dawn. It’s divided into three sections: First, Bella narrates up until her pregnancy, then Jacob’s perspective during her pregnancy until Renesmee is born, and then back to Bella once she’s a mother and a newborn vampire. This was just one poor choice, and not just because being inside Jacob’s mind is like eating chard, but because it disconnected the reader from Bella’s perspective when we needed it the most. Why would she put herself through a torturous pregnancy?
I would like to clarify a part of the books that some people may be unaware of: Bella never once mentioned wanting, or even liking, children. It was refreshing to read about a female character who seemed ambivalent about wanting children for herself and was nonchalant about sacrificing her fertility. The fact that she found herself pregnant and willing to risk her life to carry this fetus to term was not just a super-weird plot point, but it made no sense for this character. Meyer could have easily inputted a single paragraph in any of the previous books to plant the seed that Bella wanted children, and maybe was a little bummed out about not having them but was willing to sacrifice that to live as a vampire. Meyer didn’t do this. She included several other female characters who struggled with infertility, so maybe she thought that was the same as foreshadowing, but it isn’t. Bella didn’t want to be a mother.
If I were to describe Renesmee in two words, I would say “Black Hole.” She added nothing, yet everything about this story was forcibly sucked into her weird gravitational pull. She was the child that no one wanted, yet suddenly she was the focus of every discussion. Nothing about her made sense: not the disturbing way she was conceived, not her horrifying gestation and birth, not her awful name, not the inconceivable reason Jacob “imprinted” on her, nor why she would even grow at an accelerated rate anyway. Meyer’s grasp on basic science was tenuous at best but not an obstacle to enjoying the first three books. After Breaking Dawn, all of the previous rules of her universe bent and twisted to satisfy this strange narrative. Characters and actions changed to fit the plot, not the other way around. This creepy half-baby had to be born, and it didn’t matter that Renesmee’s existence made everyone else look awful by comparison.
Meyer claimed that when a human became a vampire, all bodily fluids were replaced by venom. Or maybe not, considering Edward was able to impregnate Bella. I don’t want to think about how that is supposed to work. Meyer then said that a half-vampire baby could only be born between a male vampire and a female human, but not the other way around because a female vampire’s body cannot change to hold a fetus. What? So do female vampires technically produce viable eggs but can’t get pregnant because their outside shell is too rigid? Really? I try to not be a total pedant, but that’s just dumb.
Anyway, so because of the new fantasy rules of this universe, Bella is pregnant with a gross half-vampire child. And the following section of the book is graphic and strange. Told entirely from Jacob’s perspective, we’re treated to an uncomfortable description of Bella’s painful, grotesque pregnancy. We need her point of view to understand why she has made this drastic choice; instead, we’re alienated from her. Jacob describes the fetus as if it’s a horrifying parasite. Which it is. It drains Bella of her life, kicks her so hard she suffers internal bleeding and broken spine and craves human blood. Renesmee’s birth is traumatic. She has to be literally chewed out of her mother’s womb like a baby shark while Bella screams in agony, her emaciated body broken on the table. For some reason, Carlisle is gone during this scene. He also didn’t think to give Bella blood while she was starving in pregnancy, even though her fetus was half-vampire. Carlisle is not a very good doctor.
Edward has to rip Renesmee from Bella’s womb and inject her with as much venom as possible to save her life. In this tragedy, Renesmee’s role is to bite her lifeless mother on her breast and then get whisked away by sister-in-law Rosalie. Bella bleeds out on the table as Edward desperately tries to pump life back into her. Jacob plans to murder the evil dhampir but imprints on Renesmee instead. Love triangle solved!
As a horror story, I would say this was perfect. Bella’s pregnancy made me nauseous. Meyer meant for Bella’s story to be about the power of a mother’s selfless love, but instead, it was an advertisement for Planned Parenthood. That book killed any desire in me to give birth more thoroughly than Renesmee killed her human mother.
Bella was willing to sacrifice her life for her child, which could have been beautiful but instead read like a horror story. And then that sacrifice, and all of the other sacrifices Bella intended to make, were meaningless. Bella got everything she ever wanted and more. She didn’t have to sacrifice a thing. Her humanity? Who cares. She managed to squeeze a baby out of that husk, so her worthless human body did its job. Her best friend, Jacob? Now he’s grooming her daughter, so I guess that’s fine (I sincerely hope Meyer retracts the romantic relationship between Jacob and Renesmee. Please, Stephenie Meyer, make Jacob’s imprinting purely familial/platonic.) Her relationship with her dad? That’s all good now, because of reasons.
Poor, poor Charlie. All he wanted was to spend time with his teenage child. Instead, he watched impotently as she fell into an unhealthy, codependent relationship. His child avoided him, lied to him, and ran away from him for three years. This all culminated with her joining a secret society that he could never be a part of. His daughter, Bella, the shy girl from Arizona, is forever lost to him. His story is deeply tragic. But I guess he gets a weird hybrid granddaughter out of it, so yay?
Once Bella is a vampire, everything goes well for her. For years she had been warned against the ferocious bloodlust that would take hold of her once she transformed. That bloodlust ended up not being a problem because she “mentally prepared herself” while she was a human. Once she was a vampire, she was beautiful, rich, powerful, married to the love of her life, and mother to a beautiful child she never wanted. She got to keep her best friend and her dad. Everything worked out for her, which was antithetical to the point of the series.
Edward’s role in “Breaking Dawn” was reduced to him being a tertiary character. It was weird to see the book’s romantic hero act like a stepfather to his own child. The series changed from Edward and Bella’s relationship to focus on Bella and her child, and there was no room for her and Edward anymore. They became a boring married couple within a few chapters; the heat and tension in their relationship was eliminated. That tension was what made them so appealing. Bella chose to be with Edward, even though that choice was difficult. There were seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their way that they had to work together to overcome. Then she turned into a vampire, and everything was fine. He had nothing to do anymore, and Jacob pretty much assumed the role of Renesmee’s father (once again, this was super gross).
The first three books said that you can’t have everything. The fourth book said, “Nevermind, you can.”
When I read “Breaking Dawn” as a teenager, I was crushed. I had never been so disappointed by the conclusion of a series. This book was so bad I realized the whole series was terrible. It was the “How I Met Your Mother” series finale of books. Even Meyer had to release a statement after Breaking Dawn came out to justify her choices. She didn’t help her case because all she said was “feminism is about choice” (which, sure, but we wanted Bella’s choice to be travel the world with her beloved as an immortal vampire, not die in childbirth at 18). She also said that this story was her intention from the start, in which case, she did a terrible job foreshadowing this. This book was a sloppy, poorly-executed finish to an otherwise enjoyable series.
I don’t know what Breaking Dawn should have been about. I think Meyer missed the mark and failed to understand what made her series so popular in the first place. Meyer failed to understand that sadness and disappointment are good. Giving a character everything they want only weakens the narrative. Adding in unwanted, badly-named, creepy monster children who consumes the plot like Charybdis the Whirlpool? That will retroactively ruin a series.
Where does this put me now? With the release of Midnight Sun, I have a new perspective on the series. I can accept its many, many flaws but also look back on what I once loved. Vampire X-Men? Amazing! Multiple love stories with diverse characters? Wonderful! I might dip my toes back into the series to relive what I once enjoyed so much, but I can back out before things get too weird. And I want to show some respect to Stephenie Meyer for how she’s conducted herself online, as well as supported other female artists. I think it’s incredibly cool how she’s allowed female filmmakers through greenlighting “The Storytellers: The New Voices of the Twilight Saga.” I also think it’s impressive how polite she’s been to that hack E.L. James. I hope that Meyer continues to support the arts and follow her own passion. I also hope she thinks twice before writing a new novel about Jacob and Renesmee. No one needs that.
6 thoughts on “Renesmee Ruined Twilight”
RENESME SAVED TWILIGHT EXCUSE ME
If you had met me when I was 15 and said you loved Renesmee then we would have had WORDS
Buckle up, I have thoughts
– My future brother in law and my sister bought me an Edward poster for my birthday (no judgment zone)
– I made my dad take me to Borders book store at midnight to get the new book (he was upset, I was elated)
– I stayed up way past my bedtime… how you ask? Adrenaline and the pure excitement of a new book that ended up being trash but it was my trash mine mine mine
-“the baby is weird” is a huge UNDERSTATEMENT like… I can’t
-I honestly got annoyed hearing from Jacob’s perspective, it was a waste of pages. Oooof
-I’m not 100% sure if I agree or disagree with Bella did not want to be a mother. It has been a long time though so I don’t remember the book, and I donated the books… but I remember Kristen Stewart’s portrayal and she was cradling her belly and protective. Maybe once it happened, she was protective? I don’t know.
-The fact that previous movies made so much money and they didn’t use CGI for Renesmee rather than scar us for life is beyond me… like come on. I believe Iron Man came out in 2008 and the visual effects of that movie was A++++ over Renesmee’s portrayal (i.e. Chucky’s sister)
-“Carlisle is not a very good doctor” LMAOOOOOOOOOO
-Can you imagine my dad’s reaction if I no longer spoke to him to live happily ever after with a vampire… yeah Al would not be happy… I sympathize with Charlie. I always wonder about Bella’s mother though… she seemed 50% checked out
-I remember when I finished the book in the wee hours of the morning, I said to myself “well that’s it… I guess…”
-That hack E.L. James – LMAOOOOOOOO can’t believe I read that series too but I read that for free. I’m not paying for that sh*t hell to the no no no
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Jacob’s perspective was absolutely a waste of pages. He was such a grumpy sack of crap. But then he fell in love with a baby, so it all worked out (but not before he planned on murdering the baby).
You are welcome to disagree with me about Bella not wanting children. I think Kristen portrayed her as wanting to be a mother, which is fine, but I wish the books had emphasized Bella sacrificing her future (which includes motherhood) more.
Also, now I’m thinking about if poor Al went through what Charlie went through. Ugh, it’s too sad. Please don’t become a vampire. 😦