Hey, remember three years ago when I wrote this post? Well, I finally got around to actually reading that book, and I have a looooooot of thoughts to share. Probably too many thoughts. But I’m gonna try to squeeze as many as I can into this post.
My first thought is this — Stephenie. Publishers. Darling fellow Twi-hards. This book is a lot of things to all of us. I mean, this book is why I have my second Master’s Degree. But classic novel? Ehhhhhh…
Let me start by answering/following up with the bullet points/questions I asked in my original blog post when I first heard that this novel was being released.
Are Beau and Edythe the only gender-swapped characters?
Sadly, no. Most of the characters – with extremely few exceptions, which Meyer explains in her forward – are the opposite gender that they were in the original novel. Alas, there’s no Beau/Jacob sexual tension, and Beau/Jules (the girl Jake) don’t have enough time to develop any sort of real friendship. Sure, you see Jules a little bummed out and the hints of a crush are there, but nothing much more.
How much of the plotline is going to remain unchanged? Is it still a “girls’ choice” dance?
I’ll deal with some aspects of this later on, but yes, it is still a girls’ choice dance. This actually makes for some interesting twists because where I felt pissed and annoyed at the guys (Mike, Eric, Tyler) taking away Bella’s agency, I now feel a lot of sympathy and compassion for the girls (McKayla, Erica, Taylor) as they’re shot down by Beau one-by-one.
Are they still all going to play baseball? Will it be a female hunter (Jayne? Jamie? Janessa?), her male mate, and another female nomad? How will the competition between them play out?
Yes, and it’s still a great game. Yes, and her name is Joss (I was right that her mate became Victor, and the other nomad a female named Lauren). The competition plays out in the exact same manner as it does in Twilight, only — and this is something I’ll discuss at the end — it really does have a very different tone/feel to it when you’re seeing female-led covens and the competition over a male human. I know Meyer’s goal was to show this is just a human v. vampire thing, but…it’s not.
Doesn’t this make the forbidden apple/Eve thing a bit more heavy-handed? And, really, why not just go for it then and name her Eve instead of Edythe?
Yes, and she should have.
(Re: Abstinence) So, in this version, if it’s BEAU who wants it and Edythe putting the breaks on, doesn’t that just reaffirm extremely negative societal stereotypes that boys just want sex and girls should always abstain/be virtuous/”make him wait”?
Sort of. Again, it plays out line-for-line and word-for-word as it does in the original novel. It’s somewhat interesting to hear Beau talk about love and lust going together and not feeling them separately, and the excuse that Edythe gives that she could/would literally crush his skull and kill him if they tried to is the same thing Edward tells Bella, so…*shrug*. I guess in this case, it really is just a human v. vampire thing?
I wonder if Beau is going to be as obsessed with F. Scott Fitzgerald as Bella was with Jane Austen. I mean, if he’s supposed to be just as love-lorn, is there really any better literary companion for him than Jay Gatsby?
In the specific scene I was thinking about (when Bella is outside reading Austen and falls asleep on her quilt), Beau goes outside and falls asleep reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I stand by my affirmation that Gatsby would’ve been better, but that’s a personal preference.
NOW ON TO THE MORE SPOILERY BUT ALSO ANALYTICAL PORTION OF THIS POST. FEEL FREE TO GO AWAY NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT ANYTHING RUINED FOR YOU.
Okay, so, again – spoiler time left and right from here on out. Get out now if you want to avoid them, because I’m spilling it all. Ready? Here we go…
- Back to the plotline note…let’s assume it DOES follow the same story, and they’re happy and in love and at prom and Beau isn’t betting against Alice (or Arnold, or whatever her/his name and gender end up being). How does that play forward? Breaking Dawn can’t/won’t happen as-is. The CENTER of Breaking Dawn is Bella’s pregnancy and the birth of Reneseme and Jacob imprinting. Beau can’t get knocked up, and vampires can’t get pregnant (which is Rosalie’s whole problem with Bella). So…where does Beau and Edythe’s story take them? Does Edythe leave Beau and he runs to the comfort of Jacob (seriously, I’m holding out for Jake to still be a guy)? Do they meet the Volturi? Is the Volturi a council of women instead of men? Are they still in Italy? What about the wolves? The newborns/Victoria (Victor? I’m guessing…)? Is Edythe going to walk down the aisle, and are Beau’s parents going to give his as much hell as Charlie gave Bella about getting married at 18? And, seriously, with no possibility of Reneseme, WHERE DOES THIS GO?!?!
(1) It’s Archie, not Arnold (or Alice), and no one bets against him in this version either. What we do get is a bit more insight (like we got later in the original saga) into how his power functions, and why/how he sees his visions. He actually has this lovely moment in the hotel in Phoenix where he talks about how he’s seen he and Beau being best friends, and how much they share. I wish I’d seen that moment with Bella and Alice, to be honest.
(2) Joss bites Beau in the ballet studio. Edythe sucks the venom out, but Archie points out there’s only two choices – that she’ll kill Beau constantly trying to drain the venom, or someone needs to bite him for real and let the transformation happen to “save him” from the painful death. Archie and Carine (Carlisle) both volunteer, but it’s Edythe who does it. SO WE GET A WHOLE NEW ENDING! There is no prom. There’s a funeral instead, because they need to stage Beau’s human death. That…broke my heart. Seeing Charlie and Renee (the two characters not gender flipped) so distraught over his death, watching them bury another body that Archie and Royal (Rosalie) had dug up…ugh. It was emotional, for sure. Edythe and Beau watch from a distance. Later, they meet up with the Quileutes, so we see the wolves for a teeny moment and Beau assures Bonnie (Billy) Black that he’s happy and they didn’t break the treaty, and a tenuous agreement is made between vampires and wolves again.
(3) There are a couple of paragraphs that introduce the other characters’ backstories that we get in the later novels in Bella’s saga. The Volturi is two women and one man (Marcus). One of the women is actually Aro’s wife, and she discovered that Aro was having an affair with Marcus’s wife, and the two of them killed their cheating spouses and took over the Volturi. That was an interesting twist, for sure. Would’ve liked to see that play out in future novels…
(4) Archie has seen Edythe and Beau getting married. There’s a sort-of proposal that happens once they’re both vampires. Beau, like Bella, is an incredibly powerful newborn and has significant control over his abilities and his thirst, and he and Edythe are all love-declaration-y for the last dozen pages or so. It’s sweet, but honestly, without the other novels to stretch out the story, it has even more of a “you stupid teenagers” vibe to it.
NOW, FOR THE BIG “WAIT A SECOND, THAT’S A MAJOR CHANGE” THING…
Obviously the ending is a big change, but it needed to happen, and I get that. The one thing I don’t agree with is that the changes just showed the human versus vampire thing. Swapping the genders ended up with some small but serious and some larger changes that did shift the vibe/feeling/understanding of the story.
For example, in Twilight, Edward reads Jessica’s thoughts and tells Bella that she wants to know if they planned to meet up and if they’re secretly dating.
In Life & Death, Edythe reads Jeremy’s thoughts and tells Beau that he wants to know if they planned to meet up and what base he got to with her.
That…says a lot. More than I have time to go into right now because I want to deal with the other major change.
So, in Twilight, Bella gets lost in Port Angeles looking for a bookstore and ends up being followed by a very creepy pair of twenty-something year old dudes. It becomes clear that they’re “herding” her, and from both Twilight and the .PDF of Midnight Sun, the implication is assault and rape. There’s no mention of any sort of weapons being used — they’re physically intimidating her with their bodies/proximity/words. Edward swings in just in time, threatens the dudes, and gets Bella out of there. On the drive Edward mentions “the vile things those guys were thinking.”
This is not what happens in Life & Death.
It was not just a gender-flipped scene (two creepy twenty-something women herding Beau with the implication being sexual assault). Instead, there was a new scene inserted early in to Life & Death to show off Beau’s clumsiness and he hits someone at the airport with his bag. The man he hits and the woman he’s with both glare at him, and then they see Chief Swan in full uniform and back away.
In Port Angeles, Beau runs into these same two people as they’re, like, doing a drug deal or something. They assume, because they saw him with Charlie, that he’s a plain-clothes police officer and threaten him with a gun. Edythe swings in just in time, and gets Beau out of there. On the drive Edythe mentions “they were planning to kill you.”
So: Seventeen-year-old girl is threatened with physical intimidation and likely sexual assault because she’s a seventeen-year-old girl who got lost. Seventeen-year-old boy is threatened with a gun because some criminals think he’s a cop.
I don’t have the energy or resources to write the paper/article/thesis/dissertation on that (and all the other things that do change in meaning/impact because of the gender swaps) right now, but, you know, feel free to discuss in the comments or tweet me about it. Or if you write that paper/article/thesis/dissertation, send me a link or something.
Guys, I can’t help it. I love the Cullens. I love the Swans. I love Forks. And, yes, I loved this book too. It was a fun, interesting way to go back to the book that’s meant a lot to me and consider so many different aspects of it. If you’re a Twi-hard of any stripe, I recommend reading it.
Now, when do I get Midnight Sun?