It's Isabella Swan's 18th birthday, and unlike the rest of her high school classmates, she's been dreading this milestone for months. Once Bella turns 18, she'll officially be older than her beloved Edward Cullen, who is 17 and will remain so until the end of time. Dazzlingly handsome Edward, like the rest of his family, is undead, a vampire destined to remain young and beautiful forever...while mortals like Bella age and perish all around them.
Following a frightening encounter with some of Edward's siblings after she cuts her finger on wrapping paper (the Cullens pledge to hunt only wild animals, but the smell of human blood can send them into a frenzy), Edward grows increasingly distant with Bella. Finally, he drops a bombshell --- he is leaving Bella forever, finally embracing his vampire characteristics and no longer, as he tells her, "'pretending to be something I'm not.'" Disappearing suddenly into a dark and moonless wood, Edward leaves Bella utterly alone and despondent: "I hoped that I was fainting, but, to my disappointment, I didn't lose consciousness. The waves of pain that had only lapped at me before now reared high up and washed over my head, pulling me under."
Bella drowns in her pain for months, resurfacing only when her father threatens to send her to see a psychologist or to live with her mother. Desperate not to forget Edward, Bella rekindles a friendship with Jacob Black, a large, hard-edged boy with a tendency to live life recklessly. Jacob lives on the area's Indian reservation, whose inhabitants loathe the vampires for reasons that become increasingly clear as Bella's friendship with Jacob deepens. Bella's thrill-seeking adventures with Jake, though, attract attention, leading Bella back to Edward --- and to a new threat neither one of them ever anticipated.
Stephenie Meyer's first novel about Bella and Edward, TWILIGHT, offered readers an exciting new entry in the field of vampire fiction. With NEW MOON, the second part in a projected trilogy, Meyer deepens and enriches her mythology, introducing new families and races that complicate Bella and Edward's story. Bella reflects, "Could a world really exist where ancient legends went wandering around the borders of tiny, insignificant towns, facing down mythical monsters?...Was there anything sane or normal at all, or was everything just magic and ghost stories?"
If readers have any complaint about NEW MOON, it will be that the story, at least for the middle 400 pages, doesn't have enough magic. Edward vanishes in short order and only reappears shortly before the Gothic extravaganza near the book's end. In the middle, the story sometimes drags, and readers may long for the vampires' return. The events of NEW MOON, though, will leave Meyer's many fans breathless for the sequel, as Bella finally understands everything that will be at stake if she makes the ultimate choice to give up her humanity and live, like the vampires, forever.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011