Book review: “Midnight Sun” by Stephenie Meyer

I wrote about my love-hate relationship with Twilight previously here, but one of the bright spots of 2020 was reliving the Twilight experience through the eyes of Edward in Midnight Sun.

If you thought Twilight was messed up, wait til you get a front-row seat into the play by play thoughts of the vampire that started it all. Not only do you get all the unhealthy relationships and creepy stalker behavior, but you also get Edward acknowledging he is unhealthy and creepy all along the way:

It shouldn’t have been so hard for me to do the right thing. But all afternoon, I was gritting my teeth against the urge that had me yearning to ditch, too– in order to go find the girl again. Like a stalker. An obsessed stalker. An obsessed vampire stalker.

You get a whole new look at his general misanthropy:

Though they didn’t want to stand out from the herd, at the same time they craved a spotlight for their individual uniformity.

Beyond protecting my family from suspicion, human thoughts were not significant.

The ten signs you’re dating a sociopath:

I knew from experience that if I was very confident as I lied, it made any questioner less sure of the truth.

I imagined the sound it would make if his body hit the opposite wall with enough force to break most of his bones.

How confusing and incomprehensible the workings of her mind were! The feeling Edward gets when he encounters one girl whose mind he can’t literally read.

“Do you have multiple personality disorder?” she asked. It must seem that way. My mood was wildly erratic, so many new emotions coursing through me.

His overblown ego:

My years of theoretical medical study were no match for his centuries of hands-on medical practice. Is that a humble brag?

His self-loathing and constant negative thoughts:

The monster inside me hissed with annoyance as I struggled. A constant in this book is Edward describing his actual thoughts and desires, and the monster inside of him. As if they are two different beings.

I took a deep breath, trying to settle myself, to shake off the sense of doom.

And the verbs, oh the verbs. Edward doesn’t talk, he hisses, snarls, he even purrs, and perhaps the most irritating, his constant chuckling.

But here is where I will go beyond cringe-worthy. The main tension in Bella and Edward’s relationship is their differences: he is a vampire and she is a human. This take the forbidden relationship, the Romeo and Juliet scene, to a whole new level of incompatibility. As Edward phrases it, and so the lion fell in love with the lamb. How can that even work?

Now, replace the word vampirism with being gay. Take a few moments. OK, angry now?

I am sure there are a hundred other interpretations of Bella and Edward’s relationship. I read one series of essays at one point interpreting Bella’s induction into the Cullen clan as a conversion to Mormonism. I take my right to read in my own personal interpretations, as much as any other.

As a gay Mormon, there were limited options in reconciling my faith with my sexuality. I don’t want to rehash how I came to reconcile the two here (you can read it here, but suffice it to say I chose, with my now-wife, to pursue what is known as a mixed-orientation marriage. Both our approach to our faith and our relationship have grown and matured over time, and we now feel very secure where we are. However, it wasn’t always so, and I would even say there were at times some unhealthy attitudes. Some of those flared to the fore-front of my mind as I was reading Midnight Sun. Some of these quote don’t even require modification to read in a mixed-orientation relationship. For instance:

The idea of virtue being able to make up for my sexuality:
I was trying to be good enough for her. It was an impossible goal. But I couldn’t bear the thought of giving up.

The constant dread that I was dooming her to a lesser life:
Suddenly, as she ate, a strange comparison entered my head. Just for a second, I saw Persephone, pomegranate in hand. Dooming herself to the underworld. Is that who I was? Hades himself, converting springtime, stealing it, condemning it to endless night. I tried unsuccessfully to shake the impression.

Constantly being aware of any faults in our relationship, physical or otherwise, and feeling extreme guilt:
“You didn’t do anything wrong Bella. It was my fault.”

On the other hand, my wife’s desire to accommodate or make the “struggle” lighter:
“But I want to help, if I can, to not make this harder for you.”

A momentary sense of accomplishment at being able to “conquer” any desire to “act on” my feelings:
[I was surprised] at how little they appealed to me now. Even withholding the inevitable sequel– the return of thirst, the emptiness of the world without her– I felt no desire to act on my imaginings.

Kisses that “aren’t so bad”:
“Was that very hard for you?” she asked with sympathetic eyes.

Her concern for me warmed me to the core.

“Not nearly as bad as I imagined it would be. And you?”

She gave me one disbelieving glance “No, it wasn’t bad… for me.”

Trying to explain what it’s like:
“I wish… I wish you could feel the… complexity,” I fumbled to explain. “The confusion I feel. That you could understand.”

Having absolutely no idea how to be intimate:
“I don’t know how to be close to you,” I cautioned her. “I don’t know if I can.”

Rationality always on, always thinking about every perception, every moment. Analyzing everything:
While parts of my mind were lost in the miracle of the moment, other parts had never stopped calibrating the actions of every muscle, monitoring every bodily reaction. It took up quite a bit of my mental capacity, in fact, but then, an immortal mind had a great deal of space to spare.

The attitude of “mind over matter”:
I sighed, choosing my words. I wanted her to understand as much as I could share. “It’s not easy.” It would never be easy. It would always be painful. None of that mattered.

The sense of “rising above” your nature:
“Why do you do it?” she breathed, quieter than before. “I still don’t understand how you can work so hard to resist what you… are. Please don’t misunderstand, of course I’m glad that you do. I just don’t see why you bother in the first place.”

That’s a good question, and you are not the first one to ask it. The others– the majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot– they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see, just because we’ve been… dealt a certain hand… it doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to rise above– to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we can.

The nagging question, is s*x possible?:
*”I don’t think that… that”– I avoided the word sex because she did– “would be possible for us.”*

And the unfair self-doubts of whether she feels attractive in your eyes:
“Your human instincts…” she asked slowly. “Well, do you find me attractive, in that way, at all?”

Edward and Bella’s vampire-human relationship is fragile, and ultimately doesn’t survive in its current state. Spoiler if you haven’t read Breaking Dawn: Bella becomes a vampire. Edward clings to the hope that a relationship of constant tension could survive for at least a few years of happiness. And it seems short-sighted and unfair. I can’t imagine a relationship lasting through the throes of Book 1 for a lifetime. I would definitely say that my relationship with my wife has had to undergo a similar transformation, if not quite as dramatic as becoming a vampire. I’m hesitant to discuss further here– spouting these half-formed thoughts on my blog is more a form of therapy than anything else. But it does help to see how far I have come, that I no longer find the dynamics of Bella and Edward’s relationship appealing like I did as a teenager. I can acknowledge painful moments in my life, respect them for what they are, and move on.

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