In May — what feels like 15 months ago in pandemic time — author Stephenie Meyer announced that she would release “Midnight Sun,” the long-shelved version of her massive 2005 hit “Twilight” told from vampire Edward Cullen’s perspective, as opposed to the book’s original narrator, teenager Bella Swan.
Meyer had started writing the second version of the book years ago, but after a draft was leaked online in 2008, she stopped, opting to post what she’d written on her website for fans. The project seemed to be scrapped.
Members of Team Edward were very bummed.
Those fans, who contributed to the billion-dollar “Twilight” brand that resulted in four books, one novella, an anniversary edition of “Twilight,” and five box-office-topping movies (the final film, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2” came out in 2012), were thrilled when Meyer announced that “Midnight Sun” would be released Aug. 4.
“It feels strange to be making this announcement when the world is suffering through a pandemic, and no one really knows what’s next,” Meyer said in a statement released by her publisher in May. “I hope this book gives my readers a little pleasure to anticipate and, after it arrives, a chance to live in an imaginary world for a while.”
Does the book, released Tuesday, offer a break from this world? Sort of.
I started reading it at midnight when it was released. I took periodic naps and did not shower (the book is 671 pages). My first thoughts after one marathon read:
If you are a die-hard “Twilight” fan (I am, by the way), you know that some of Meyer’s narrative choices have long been problematic. Yes, many vampire tales feature characters doing bad things, but “Twilight,” as a young adult novel, seemed to rest on metaphors of boys not being able to control their urges, and only appreciating the girls who are most mysterious to them.
Also, Edward Cullen is a centenarian who falls for a teenager. Bella is dodging unwanted invitations to the school dance, meanwhile, Edward was sired as a vampire during the 1918 flu pandemic. (Yes, that part feels timely.) He’s old, and their age difference is more pronounced from his perspective, even if they’re both falling in love for the first time.
His stalking also feels worse. In “Twilight” Bella learns that Edward watches her while she sleeps. But in “Midnight Sun” readers get a first-person account of that spying with unsettling details. He expresses some guilt, but dude, get out of her room!
At one point, he stalks Bella outside while she reads a Jane Austen novel.
“… what I was doing now was not precisely good, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as my nightly pursuits. I wasn’t technically even trespassing now — the base of this tree grew from the next lot over — let alone doing something more felonious. But I knew that when night came, I would continue to do wrong.”
Yes, this is Edward justifying his Peeping Tom routine by hanging from a neighbor’s tree.
Also, Edward is really mean about other boys in high school. He’s constantly dismissing his so-called peers, and yes, I get it, they must seem ridiculous to him, but again, Edward, you choose to keep going to high school. Take the high road!
“What if this gangly teen with his unhealthy skin was somehow pleasing to her?” he asks, jealous of a kid who might want Bella’s attention.
You’d think an old man in a hot young guy’s body would be over this kind of pettiness, but no.
Some of the book feels repetitive. We already read a lot of the dialogue between Edward and Bella in “Twilight,” so the better scenes are when we get to follow Edward without her. There are adorable moments with Edward and family, specifically Alice, his sister, who has visions of the future. For those who don’t know, Edward’s vampire superpower is that he can read minds (everyone’s but Bella’s). His conversations with Alice, who can anticipate his every move, are where Meyer’s storytelling shines. You can tell she loves to write this family.
Why did these books become an obsession for so many of us years ago?
For me, the movie came first. Director Catherine Hardwicke made a beautiful picture with “Twilight,” and I was able to envision the rest of the books through her lens.
I also adored the theme of chosen family in Meyer’s stories. By hooking up with Edward, Bella joins the Cullen family, inheriting siblings, two extra parents, and a lifestyle that allows her to be more confident. She gets to see the world.
Also, Edward’s love for Bella is unflinching. He’s fascinated by her, always asking her questions about herself and really listening to the answers.
Worth noting: Many people develop a love for romance novels while going through tough times. The books allow good characters, often women, happily ever afters. The stories can be deeply satisfying when real life isn’t. In May, when the news was so bleak, I wondered whether this might be a perfect time for the release of “Midnight Sun.” Like Meyer I hoped it might transport fans the way the stories did a decade ago.
I suppose it does, but more because of the nostalgia that comes with it.
To be honest, the more interesting book from Edward’s perspective might be “New Moon,” the second installment of the “Twilight” franchise. In that book, Edward is missing for a large percentage of the novel because he assumes Bella would be better off without him. He bolts from town, traveling on his own.
I’d be curious to know what happened to him then, how he lived, and who he met along the way, before he decided to return.
Perhaps Meyer is already at work on that one.
Meredith Goldstein can be reached at Meredith.Goldstein@Globe.com.