Breaking Dawn is the fourth and final installment of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga. Breaking Dawn was released just after midnight on August 2, 2008, and celebrated by a series of concerts and book parties all across America. Within the first 24 hours, it sold a staggering 1.3 million copies. Shortly thereafter, though, a huge controversy flared up in the fan world. A number of fans, unhappy with the book, contemplated burning it, because they considered it untrue to the characters and badly written (source).
Another point of contention was that the material in this book didn't seem right for the teenage audience that had been reading the first three books of the Twilight series. In fact, even Stephenie Meyer's editors asked her to tone down the violence in Breaking Dawn. Meyer stated:
I was for an age limit of 15 or 16 and a warning […] I think the content is just a little harder to handle, a little bit more grown-up for really young kids. I have 9-year-old readers, and I think it's too old for them. Some of it is the violence, and some of it's just mature themes. (source)
Another criticism, launched at the book by fans and critics, focused on the build-up to the final battle scene…that never happened. Maybe the book cover should have given fans a clue – after all, it's a chessboard, not a battlefield. According to Meyer, the battle in Breaking Dawn is all about the victory of strategy over physical combat, "a legal drama," as she puts it (source).
Melissa Rosenberg, the screenwriter who has been collaborating with Meyer on the screen versions for the saga, defended Breaking Dawn in public. Yet, she didn't describe the book as a legal drama: "[Meyer] just completely went wild. I just think that that's such bold storytelling. She turns the series upside down" (source).
So which is it? Legal drama or racy fantasy? Read on and decide for yourself.
Entertainment Weekly: “Human Bella is so normal, and vampire Bella is so maternal. To whom do you relate more?”
Meyer: “Human Bella. […] I realized writing the first draft of this that Bella was going to lose her relatability when she became a vampire. […] Her side of the story needed to come to a close.” (source)
In a 2008 Interview with Entertainment Weekly, Stephenie Meyer discusses Breaking Dawn and how she chose to end the famous Twilight series. In her mind, Bella’s total transformation into a vampire means that readers can no longer relate to her or see themselves in her.
Before we decide if we agree with her, let’s pull out some examples of other books that involve characters who straddle the human world and another world – there seem to be many. For example Harry Potter, of the Harry Potter series, is a wizard by blood, but he grows up in the “muggle” or human world unaware of his powers until his eleventh birthday. Similarly, Percy Jackson, of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, doesn’t have a clue about his half-god heritage until he's twelve years old. And then, of course, there’s always Matilda Wormwood, of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and her rad psychokinetic powers that allow her to move things with her mind – she’s your average little bookworm, but with a superhuman twist.
We could dig up lots more examples of literary characters who are not quite human but to whom readers have been relating for years. So, what do you think Meyer means when she talks about Bella losing her relatability? Can you relate to a vampire? Are vampires so different from wizards, demi-gods, or eerily smart little girls that readers won’t be able to identify with them? What makes Bella different from these other characters? Can you picture yourself in the vampire Bella's shoes? Do her inhuman beauty, grace, and strength make us lose a bit of interest in her? Do we simply like our protagonists a little more flawed? A little more like us? As you read Breaking Dawn, think about how Bella's character changes, and whether those changes make it harder for us readers to connect with her.