New Moon begins with our narrator in deep trouble, running against a clock, chiming in "the end of everything" (Preface.1). Avid readers of Twilight already know that the narrator is none other than our protagonist, Isabella "Bella" Swan. (Catch up on all the juicy details of Twilight in our full discussion on Shmoop.)
Bella is still living in rainy Forks, Washington with her dad, Charlie. She just spent a dreamy summer with her vampire love, Edward, and now it’s time to go back to school. She also just turned eighteen – a painful reminder that her human clock is ticking while Edward will stay young and handsome forever. To Bella’s major distress, Edward still refuses to turn her into a vampire.
When the Cullens (Edward’s vampire family) throw a birthday party for Bella at their house, clumsy Bella gets a paper cut while unwrapping one of her presents, and spills a little blood. Jasper Cullen, still struggling with his family’s no-human diet, loses control and attacks Bella. Edward fights him off but, in the process, the boys wreck the house and leave Bella with a gushing wound on her arm. Everyone except for the head of the family, Carlisle Cullen, and Edward, hurries out with pinched noses to escape the tempting smell of Bella’s blood.
Thanks to Carlisle’s profession as a doctor for the past 300 some years, he’s immune to the lure of human blood. As he stays with Bella, she complains that if Edward had made her a vampire already, these accidents wouldn’t be happening. Carlisle reveals that the reason Edward refuses to change her is that he believes vampires don’t have a soul and therefore no chance for an afterlife.
While Bella dismisses the Jasper incident as a minor family quarrel, Edward is visibly shaken and withdraws emotionally from Bella. On a walk in the woods, he tells her he wants a safe, human life for her, which is why he and his family are leaving town – without her. "It will be as if I’d never existed" (3.193), he says, and takes off.
Bella’s life is shattered. Several months pass during which she vegetates in zombie-like depression. There’s a deep, aching hole in her chest in place of her heart and she wonders if it will ever heal.
One day Bella discovers that, if she does reckless things, she can hear Edward’s voice clearly in her head. Feeling him close eases her pain. So she embarks on several reckless adventures just to coax Edward’s voice into her head.
Bella’s need for a mechanic causes her to renew her relationship with Jacob Black, the handy young son of Charlie’s best friend Billy, from La Push Indian Reservation. Two years younger than Bella, Jacob has had a crush on Bella since the first time they met. He also unwittingly told her that Edward was a "cold one," a vampire. Bella is surprised to see that Jacob has grown into a handsome young man. Always happy and supportive, he quickly becomes Bella’s healing balm, soothing some of the cracks in her broken heart. They become best friends. It’s obvious that Jacob has romantic feelings for Bella. Although she makes no secret out of the fact that she still loves Edward, she also has trouble curbing Jacob’s romantic advances because being around him makes her happy, something she hasn’t felt for a long time.
On a visit to the meadow in the woods where Edward once brought her, Bella meets Laurent, a vampire of the same coven (group) as James, the vampire who attempted to kill Bella in Twilight. Laurent tells Bella that James’s mate, Victoria, wants to kill Bella to take revenge for Edward killing James. Only Laurent is thirsty and has decided to kill Bella himself. Before he can attack, though, a pack of giant wolves appear out of the woods and chase Laurent away.
Later, Jacob tells Bella about a gang of boys down in La Push who also seem to be up to no good. Jacob fears that their leader, Sam Uley, will force him to join. When Jacob suddenly starts avoiding Bella, she thinks Sam finally got to him. Trying to save Jacob from the gang, Bella discovers that Jacob has instead morphed into a werewolf. In fact, Jacob was one of the giant wolves that saved her from Laurent. According to ancient Quileute legend, selected men from the Quileute tribe turn into werewolves to protect humans from getting eaten by vampires. Long ago, the werewolves made a peace treaty with Carlisle Cullen on the condition that the Cullens refrain from eating humans.
Jacob vows that he and his wolf pack will protect Bella from the vampire Victoria and that he’ll always be her friend – and maybe more, if she’s ready. Bella is torn about what to do.
In the meantime, on another reckless adventure to hear Edward’s voice, Bella goes cliff jumping. Jacob barely saves her from drowning.
On her return home, Bella finds Alice Cullen, who is shocked to see Bella alive. Due to her future-seeing skills, Alice saw Bella jump off a cliff. But it turns out she can’t "see" werewolves, so she believed Bella committed suicide.
Edward hears the false news of Bella’s death and he decides to go to Italy to provoke the Volturi, and ancient vampire family, to take his life too. The Volturi are in charge of enforcing rule number one of vampiredom: don’t reveal to any humans that you are a vampire! That’s why Edward plans to walk out into the sun at noon – exposing his sparkly vampire skin – in Volterra's center plaza.
However, Bella has gone to Italy in search of Edward and saves him from exposing himself in the nick of time. But they get kidnapped by the Volturi anyway. Aro, the leader of the Volturi, forces Edward to make a decision: either he changes Bella into a vampire or she has to die, because she knows vampires exist. Through Alice’s vision of Bella’s future, Aro sees that Bella will become a vampire and releases them.
At home, Edward and Bella re-declare their love for each other, but trouble looms on the horizon. Jacob and his werewolf pack warn Bella that if she transforms into a vampire, their pre-existing treaty will force them to attack the Cullens. Bella is faced with a tough choice. Yet, with Edward back at her side forever, she believes that she can face anything.