New Moon, Stephenie Meyer's second novel in the Twilight saga, continues to explore the love between human girl Bella Swan and the handsome vampire Edward Cullen – or, rather, what happens when Bella's true love leaves her. Yes, Edward breaks up with Bella and, for a major part of the story, we’re left to experience the darkest moments in Bella’s life.
Given Edward’s sweeping popularity among females, you can imagine that this turn of events did not go over well with many fans. Interestingly, Meyer did not like her decision either, but she felt Edward left her no choice:
The difficulty with strong, defined characters […] is that you can't make them do something that is out of character. […] As I started plotting New Moon, it became clear that Edward was Edward, and he would have to behave as only Edward would. And, because of that, Edward was leaving.
NO! I didn't want Edward to leave. I pitched a fit every bit as violent and tearful as those I've seen in New Moon discussion forums. I tried to talk him out of it. I presented him with other plot options. I begged. Edward remained unmoved. (source)
Published in 2006, just one year after Twilight, New Moon rose to the number one position on the New York Times Best Seller list for Children's Chapter Books in its second week on the list, and remained in the top spot for eleven weeks. It spent over thirty weeks in total on that bestseller list. More than 6,000 teen readers across the country chose New Moon as their favorite book in the American Library Association’s annual Teens’ Top Ten. Like Twilight, Meyer’s first sequel is an international bestseller. New Moon even arrived in theaters in November 2009.
Comparing New Moon to Twilight, a critic at Teenreads.com held that "In the middle, the story sometimes drags, and readers may long for the vampires' return" (source). But we Shmoopers believe that New Moon might simply deal with some tougher themes that show the flipside of love: pain. Pain is certainly not as much fun as love but, in life as well as in literature, we often find them inextricably connected. Plus, the story of Bella and Edward’s separation had to be told, because what’s more rewarding than two lovers being reunited in the end?
Why should you care about New Moon? Well, for all Twilight fans, it’s a moot point. Of course we need to know what happens next with Bella and Edward. It’s the joy and the pain of sequels. We live and die with these characters. For those of you who have managed to resist the supernatural Twilight draw, New Moon can claim a reason of its own to be cared about: it’s all about how to deal with the pain of losing love.
Have you ever been dumped before, or lost a person you loved? Every day, people all over the world lose loved ones to disease, war, crime, or simply because they fall out of love. Because the pain of love represents such a big part of our human existence, many works of classic and contemporary literature grapple with that all-consuming hole in our hearts. Famous tales of classic literature that deal with "love lost," include Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (check out "Literary Devices" for more), Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, just to name a few.
For most of us, the idea of pain sounds depressing, which is why Stephenie Meyer found that many readers decided to skip across the pain part to Bella and Edward’s reunion in the very end. So she begged her readers to give New Moon a second chance (source). It turns out that, on a second reading, and knowing that Edward would return, readers were able to slow down and realize: Hey! Bella is actually growing through this experience. Or, in philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's words: "What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger." That’s some vital stuff. Readers also realized that, without this painful separation, Bella might never have believed that Edward is really hers forever. In turn, Edward might have never believed that Bella’s love for him could stand the test of time.
So, in short, the story of New Moon brings us a story that shows us that we might never want pain, but it sure makes us grow stronger.