Tuesday, April 19, 2011
New Moon Chapter 6: Friends
1. Last time on Never Mind, I mean New Moon, Bella sweet-talked one of the guys inexplicably squirming for her attention into fixing up a pair of motorcycles for free and teaching her to ride. Because engaging in life-threatening activities causes her to hear Edward’s voice warning her not to do that stuff. However, this particular squirming guy is actually worth remembering because he’s Jacob Black.
Currently, work secretly continues on the bikes, which Jake keeps out in his shed. There’s no need for any further protective measures, because Jacob’s dad can’t cross the uneven patch of ground between the house and the shed on his wheelchair. Yeah, you exploit those weaknesses of the disabled, spunky protagonists!
As he works Jacob tells Bella some stuff about his school and the people he knows, which she briefly summarizes for us instead of passing it on to us so a major character can actually get some background.
2. One thing, or rather two things mentioned in this conversation are two of Jacob’s friends, Quil and Embry. Oh good, more extremely minor characters with unusual names.
The way they’re mentioned is Bella’s summing up Jacob’s description of his average day at school, and then mentions “his two best friends.” Prompting Bella to actually start relating the dialogue:
“ ‘Quil and Embry?’ I interrupted. ‘Those are unusual names.’ ”
I wouldn’t really mind a transition like that if it was done by a writer who doesn’t seem to have an inexplicable aversion to giving us background on the main characters. Especially if that writer doesn’t frankly waste their space the way Stephenie Meyer does, spending forever on nothing and acting like something’s a mystery when anyone who was paying attention can see the major revelations coming a mile away.
Quil and Embry happen to come along then and talk to Jacob. I love Bella’s observation of the two: “I still didn’t know which was which.” It makes about as much difference to the plot, too.
3. Jacob explains that “Bella and I are going to fix up these bikes,” and the topic shifts to that. “Many of the words they used were unfamiliar to me, and I figured I’d have to a Y chromosome to really understand the excitement.” Because there’s no such thing as female mechanics or female motorcycle enthusiasts in Bella’s mind. Actually, that doesn’t surprise me. And no, that line had nothing to do with the creation of Kamen Rider Tarock.
Jacob breaks it up to ask Bella “We’re boring you, aren’t we?” She replies in the negative, even noting to herself “I was enjoying myself.” Does she even know what that feels like? Most of the time she seems miserable because of one thing or another (sometimes even a conscious effort on her part), and the only times she hasn’t, it was supposedly due to the presence of an arrogant slime who treated her more like a pet than the soul mate he’d waited a century to meet. Unless that’s what she means, listening to a bunch of guys as they ignore her and discuss something she doesn’t understand.
4. Anyway, the other guys (their identities are really about as inconsequential as those of Bella’s “friends”) whoop because Jacob’s hanging out with a girl as awesome as Bella. He threatens them to stay off his property the next day while Bella’s over, and Bella realizes “I was laughing, actually laughing, and there wasn’t even anyone watching.” Given how the sounds from inside the shed were “interspersed with an ‘ouch’ and a ‘hey!’ ” and all the evidence supporting the idea that Bella’s a cold-hearted manipulator, you have to wonder what prompted the mirth.
Once she goes home, though, all that joy drains from her and she prepares nightmares for that would “no doubt, be as horrific as last night.” Cripes, she’s worse than Arnold Rimmer.
To her surprise, she wakes up the next morning “without dreaming. Dreaming or screaming.” Because she has a hot guy to justify her existence again. No, seriously. She focused “on the fact that I was going to see Jacob again today. The though made me feel almost…hopeful.”
Not that this is an actual sign of growth on Bella’s part. That stuff’s for amateurs: “I wouldn’t trust this to last, either. Wouldn’t trust it to be the same--so easy--as yesterday. I wasn’t going to set myself up for disappointment like that.”
I’m sorry, but if your character dated someone for less than a year, no signs were given for the depth of their love but instead for the depth of their mutual annoyance, and the character is still doggedly sealing themselves off from what might be a source of fulfillment four months later, you know how that character seems? I’ll give you a hint, it’s none of the adjectives Edward threw her way before the baseball game.
Give up? The answer’s weak. And mopey, which is the one thing Bella’s convinced she isn’t.
5. The next day on the trip to La Push, “the rain came down like water slopped from a bucket.” Because not a lot of energy had been put into establishing Forks as a really rainy place. Like that being the main reason a bunch of sparkly vampires decided to try to blend into society there or anything.
While they’re waiting for Jacob’s dad to leave so they can go hunting for parts without tipping him off to anything, “Jacob took me on a brief tour of his tiny room while we waited to be unsupervised.” And that’s all Meyer thinks you need to know about that. Once Billy’s gone they decide to hit the dump first. In the pouring rain. I guess there aren’t many times it wouldn’t be in Forks, but being “in the slopping rain and ankle-deep mud” in a place full of rusty old metal doesn’t seem like something Jacob would suggest, what with him liking Bella and stuff.
During their excursion Bella realizes Jacob isn’t always watching her out of the corner of his eye waiting for her to do something crazy. He’s just a pleasant person who can get through the day without thinking the entire universe is out to get him. “Like an earthbound sun, whenever someone was within his gravitational pull, Jacob warmed them.” Maybe that’s why Bella’s so constantly miserable. She thinks of everything in the most cosmic/divine proportions possible, and only man-gods like Jacob and Edward could come close to satisfying her ridiculous expectations for happiness.
6. Another of Meyer’s endearing running gags shows up when Jacob mentions he thinks one of his friends likes Bella, and they start this cutesy game where they rate each other’s actual age based on various stupid little factors. It made it easier to accept Jacob’s change a few chapters later if it meant not having to hear anymore of this garbage.
7. Bella doesn’t lose sight of her goal, though. “I still wanted to cheat.” That’s just a weird way to use the word “cheat.” Cheating is being dishonest so it does apply to breaking promises, but when I hear it, it’s usually used to mean “seize an unfair advantage” or the act of infidelity. She’s not competing with anyone by learning to ride a motorcycle, and Edward broke off their relationship forever so she’s not cheating on him with Jacob no matter what she thinks. So it sounds weird even if it’s technically a correct usage.
“Getting to spend time with Jacob was just a much bigger perk than I’d expected.” Hanging out with a cute guy who really likes her is “a perk.” Ain’t she lovable?
8. I can’t figure Meyer out. Is Bella supposed to be as mature as somebody twice her age, or a whiny “my life is so OVER!!” drama queen? Like where she says “Jacob smiled, enjoying the cloak-and-dagger.” Even the bookish types didn’t talk like that when I was in high school.
9. They get back to Jacob’s house to find his dad invited Charlie and a whole passel of other people whose names are thrown at us rapidfire in what I think is supposed to be the introductions of yet more minor characters we probably won’t remember by the time Meyer decides to have them show up and do something relevant. If she ever does. I said “Jacob mentions he thinks one of his friends likes Bella” like that for a reason.
More evidence Bella’s state of being truly is defined by the nature of the guy in her life, she gets into the party and doesn’t want to leave. Again, she’s sure it won’t last as soon as she gets home.
10. To stave off sleep Bella checks her email and finds one from her mom, whose new husband is enjoying his coaching job and they’re planning a second honeymoon. After a little more than a year of marriage?
“And I noticed that the whole thing read like a journal entry, rather than a letter to someone else.” I could say something similar about the way Bella describes things that might give us a better understanding of the people she talks about. The time with Jacob really is rubbing off on her because Bella realizes it’s like that because of how distant she’s been from her mom (the one she was prepared to die in place of, not to mention the one she planned to stay in contact with after becoming a sparkly freak, remember) and how worried it must’ve made said parent. She writes a really telling email of recent events back.
Continuing to avoid sleep, Bella does “more homework than strictly necessary.” After that thing with the two-word note from the last book, I remain unconvinced Meyer has any idea what that means. Also gotta love how thinking about hanging out with Jacob made her “almost happy in a shallow kind of way.” That’s our Bella to a T.
11. The next day at school Bella meets up with Jessica, who for some reason doesn’t want to talk to the very possibly disturbed asocial manipulative brat girl. “She looked at me with suspicious eyes. Could she still be angry? Or was she just too impatient to deal with a crazy person?” Bella, even your perfect marble idol of a boyfriend wasn’t patient enough to deal with you. Don’t try to make it sound like Jessica’s the one in the wrong for not wanting to put up with your shit.
12. Then lunch where Bella decides, for reasons unexplained (I’m still going with building friendly ties in case she needs them for anything), to try to reconnect with her mortal “friends,” including a few new ones who are even less worthy of your remembrance than the ones introduced in the last book.
Special mention goes out to Lauren, who you may vaguely remember as the jealous witch who badmouthed Bella a few times before. She got a new haircut and Bella finds herself wondering at the reason why. “Did she sell it? Had all the people she was habitually nasty to caught her behind the gym and scalped her?”…what the hell?? Did she sell it???! Bella, however, “decided it wasn’t fair for me to judge her now by my former opinion. For all I knew, she’d turned into a nice person.”
We’ve only seen her being nasty to Bella, who frankly deserves worse than what Lauren’s said about her. Maybe even deserves worse than what I’ve said about her. Please show us evidence Lauren’s nasty to other people, or at least that her ragging on Bella isn’t justified, Meyer. Because you’ve kind of shown us the opposite.
13. Bella tells us more things about the other kids that are so pointless it’s almost cute how Meyer soldiers on with this as if she thinks it’s not blindingly obvious none of it, let alone the characters, matters for anything.
Jessica asks how everyone’s weekend was, Bella intuiting “I’d bet that this was just an opener so she could tell her own stories.” Have I been missing something? Hasn’t the point of Bella’s last couple encounters with people from her circle of “friends” been that she’s even more out of touch with them than she was before? Don’t tell me she took an interest in them before. I’m not sure why she is now. Maybe it’s got something to do with contact with Jacob pulling her out of her self-pitying doldrums, but that feels wrong considering she’s still judging people as assholes and doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that the problem was her, not them. Having a lying or deluded narrator doesn’t necessarily mean a book will be bad, but I don’t think that’s what Meyer intended Bella to sound like.
14. The topic of the giant bear people have seen comes out, prompting Lauren to snort “Oh, not you, too!” and prompting Bella to think “I decided I didn’t need to give her the benefit of the doubt. Obviously her personality had not changed as much as her hair.” Because of one remark. Our kind, mature, selfless heroine.
15. When Bella chips in that she’s heard the giant bear story too, it’s like a switch was thrown and everyone decided to pay attention to Bella again. With this, it's back to Bella being the center of the teenage universe, and this whole reconnecting with the normal kids deal feels like such a forced attempt to show Bella does too have problems she has to deal with it’s not even funny.
Bella doesn’t get anymore endearing when we find out why she asked Jessica to see a movie rather than another girl named Angela, who she admits she likes more (which is only believable on the grounds that we’ve never heard Bella say anything in regards to her opinion on Angela at all). The reason she asked Jess instead? “Angela was too perceptive,” and thus harder to fool, one must assume.
16. The chapter ends with Bella realizing it’s been a year and a day since her first day at Forks High. “ ‘Nothing’s changed much,’ Angela muttered.” Bella agrees: “I was just thinking the same thing.”
What was the point of the last 660 pages, then?