Saturday, May 14, 2011

New Moon Chapter 10: The Meadow

1. “Jacob didn’t call.” So our chapter begins. I still find it hilarious how that’s a red flag and not simple confirmation that there are parts of Jacob’s life that don’t involve Bella.

I get this is a romance story, but this isn’t romantic, it’s obsessive. Maybe if Bella wasn’t so judgmental she’d have more than one friend and thus wouldn’t push the panic button when that one friend failed to stay in touch for a while.

“I got nosy.” She got nosy? “…checking to make sure that Billy had taken him to a doctor. Billy said he had, but, for some reason I couldn’t nail down, I didn’t really believe him. I called again, several times a day, for the next two days, but no one was ever there.”

I think I nailed it down. Bella doesn’t trust anyone, even the people she claims to like, and won’t admit it to herself. Remember when she didn’t trust the Cullens to protect her family from James and Victoria? And get ready for those names to finally reenter the plot.

“Saturday I decided to go see him, invitation be damned.” Well aren’t you endearing? Sweetie, just because Edward did things like be invasive in other people’s privacy doesn’t make it right. You were annoyed with him often enough to realize that, I hope.

“I stopped by the hospital on the way back home, but the nurse at the front desk told me neither Jacob or Billy had been in.” And they’d tell a complete stranger. I think I nailed down how Bella works along a double standard when it comes to trust, too. Remember how after the van incident Bella insisted Edward could trust her with the secret of his speed and strength, but had done nothing to prove that to him? She appears to have no trust in anyone else, but somehow thinks she deserves implicit trust.

It gets to the point where Bella forces her dad to call another of his friends in La Push to ask about Jacob, and he puts his hand down over her drumming fingers to make her stop.

2. Charlie reports that there’s been trouble with the phones out on the reservation, and Jacob appears to have come down with mono and isn’t allowed visitors. “ ‘No visitors?’ I demanded in disbelief.”

I’m so mature, I’m so sensible, I raised myself because I have a ditzy mom.

The other thing is that the guy Charlie called, Harry Clearwater (but who really cares?), has also had health problems. “Charlie was too worried about Harry. That was clearly the more important issue--it wouldn’t be right to bug him with my lesser concerns.” Forgive me for thinking she probably means that in a pouty, sarcastic way what with being cut off from the current center of her universe.

“I’d give Billy a week, I decided, before I got pushy. A week was generous.” Maybe Billy just doesn’t want this brat hanging out with his son after she refused to listen to his advice about going out with a guy like Edward. “A week was long. By Wednesday, I was sure I wasn’t going to live till Saturday.”

I wouldn’t mind the hyperbolic teenage stuff (okay, I'd mind it less) if Meyer had just said that’s what Bella was in the first place. Bella’s supposed to be really mature and smart and thoughtful. She’s not. She’s so not. I’m all for flawed characters, but unless you’re deliberately creating a stupid or jerky protagonist (and Meyer’s not. She’s so not), flaws have to be balanced with positives.

3. Without Jacob, Bella starts having nightmares again. “I wasn’t handling alone well.” Then try actually opening yourself up to other people, Bells. Plenty of people at school are willing to be friends with you, and maybe you’re actually to blame for the ones who aren’t (she even confirms it this chapter with “I smiled and nodded as if I cared what my other friends thought”).

Bella eventually does get through to Billy and he says Jacob’s feeling better and went up to Port Angeles to catch a movie with some friends. “Jacob was better, but not well enough to call me. He was out with friends. I was sitting home, missing him more every hour. I was lonely, worried, bored…and perforated--and now also desolate as I realized that the week apart had not had the same effect on him.”

Here’s a theory. Maybe when Jacob was sick he had a lot of time to think and realized what a clingy codependent mess Bella is and that he didn’t want to be around her after all. Or maybe he bought into that stuff about her being smart and mature and didn’t think she needed up-to-the-minute progress reports on him, and that she understood already that he had activities and friends outside of seeing her. No that’s not why, but man Bella sucks.

4. I want to take a second to think about the bit following Meyer’s anti-human crack: “I wrote this story from the perspective of a female human because that came most naturally, as you might imagine. But if the narrator had been a male human, it would not have changed the events. When a human being is totally surrounded by creatures with supernatural strength, speed, senses, and various other uncanny powers, he or she is not going to be able to hold his or her own. Sorry. That's just the way it is. We can't all be slayers. Bella does pretty well I think, all things considered.”

In case you haven’t read it, I’ve been writing a story called Kamen Rider Altis. The story’s about a female reporter pursuing a mysterious man. She does not, however, do it because he’s hot and she’s bored. She does it because it’s her job and he’s connected in some fashion to what appears to be a silent invasion of monstrous killers.

My point is I’ve gotten a fair bit of positive feedback regarding the story, meaning there are people including myself who don’t think the protagonist has to be able to rip someone’s head off with their bare hands to be interesting in a story with supernatural characters. It’s the way Meyer handles it that makes the stories bad and her narrator unlikable. As Meyer says, I don’t think Twilight would differ much if we were reading about Bill’s pursuit of the sparkly Edwina. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, either. The tone of most chapters of my story was the narrator, having no abilities enabling them to fight a monster, would hang back and do commentary on the fight between the guy who can and the monster.

I hope I don't sound arrogant by drawing this comparison to something I wrote myself (this is in here for the "let's see you do better" crowd), but consider if you will: there’s no evident thought process that went into motivating the characters and their behaviors beyond what Meyer thought was sexy. Bella seemingly pursues Edward because he’s pretty and she’s got nothing else to occupy her attention (she complains about people dying later in the book, but it seems like she only cares about that because she doesn’t want to believe Jacob’s a killer. That is, she seems to care less about the deaths themselves than the idea that her current boytoy could be the one responsible). Their interactions certainly don’t imply what they have is an everlasting love and not a pair of impulsive teenagers thinking they've discovered something no one else in history has. Seemingly the whole reason Bella’s a mopey little whiner is because she’s the frail human who’s surrounded by all the powerful supernatural beings (never mind that there are tons of stories about characters who can't compete with the beings around them on a physical level, yet are able to find other ways to contribute besides being something worth fighting for). On account of our narrator being a mopey little whiner who can’t defend herself and is worth protecting at all costs, most of the action happens off-screen, which comes across as really awkward. Especially when you can’t pin down why they’re going to so much trouble over her.

Madeleine couldn’t win a fight with a vampire either, and there were times I had her despair because her dreams of bigger and better things didn’t seem any closer despite all the near-death experiences she had. But at least she had a valid reason to pursue what she pursued (it’s her job and people are dying), had ambitions other than getting married to a hot guy, and wasn’t a withdrawn little sadsack who refused to relate to normal people and curled up into a ball when it looked like her romantic forecast was still barren. Plus she was there when things happened, since of course the guys fighting the monsters were ultimately trying to protect people, but couldn't spare the time to personally babysit her. So even if she didn’t join in the fight, you still saw the fight. That way if you felt gypped, it was at least because it was a lame fight and not because I decided to lock you out of something potentially cool.

Seriously, the entire first book basked in Edward's awesomeness at every opportunity and we don't even get to see him save the day? Who cares if it's in character for Bella to be pummeled unconscious, it's still a painfully lame climax.

But what do I know? Meyer probably told herself something similar about Twilight. At least I'll listen if you've got something less than positive to say about Altis.

5. Damn I gotta pick this up or I’ll have written a book of my own. After some more whining about how nobody understands her or something Bella decides to pick up the exploration for the meadow by herself. She finds it, but isn’t sure why. "It was the same place...but it didn't hold what I had been searching for." Unless she was hoping Edward would be there willing to take her back, I have no idea what that might be.

“What was the point of going any farther? Nothing lingered here. Nothing more than the memories that I could have called back whenever I wanted to, if I was ever willing to endure the corresponding pain--the pain that had me now, had me cold.” Just come out and say it, Meyer. Bella gets off on being miserable and that’s the real reason she pretends she and Edward are in love.

6. Then she realizes she’s not alone, Laurent's there (wait, so we've got a Lauren and a Laurent?)! If you can’t remember, he was the third member of James’s group who was only hanging around with James and Victoria because it was safer for him to pretend to be on their side. Meyer’s changed her story abruptly again, though, seeing as “he’d had no compunctions, at the time, against making a meal of me.” Gee, based on what little I saw of him he seemed like an okay guy who was indeed pretending to side with two malicious vampires out of fear. He even said he’d go live with the other “good” vampires out in Alaska. He doesn’t have “the same golden eyes that the…Cullens--I forced the name out, wincing--had. That all good vampires had.” Because wild animals have less right to live than humans? It’s just when you put it like that…

(Update 5-15-11: Also, since a "good vampire" is defined as one who morally objects to feeding on humans, doesn't that mean they're not "anti-human"? I'm sorry to keep bringing that up, but I'm honestly not sure what Meyer meant by it)

Seeing Laurent is a sign of relief for Bella all the same. “Here was the connection I’d sought. The proof, however remote, that--somewhere in the same world where I lived--he did exist.” Where did she think that car stereo she pulled out and put in her closet came from, then?

7. Laurent tells her that Victoria’s gunning for her, because Edward killed her boyfriend, so she thinks it’s only fair she kill Edward’s girlfriend (or Edward’s “mate” as the characters insist on saying). Think about that. The great, wise Cullens didn’t think the other remorseless vampire they met might want to get even with them for killing James and left Bella all alone without settling things with Victoria. It sounds like they completely forgot she existed. Remember, the Cullens left Forks to protect Bella, and left yet another reminder of her old life around. One that can end her new life.

Bella hallucinates Edward at being around another vampire, and Bella's insanity tells her to lie that the Cullens are still around, but she doesn’t fool Laurent.

8. Anyway Laurent hopes Victoria won’t be too mad with him for killing Bella himself. She just smells so appetizing to vampires, remember. That’s still not a downside, because aside from that one time with Jasper the only times it induces vampires to try and kill her they would’ve tried to kill her anyway. Laurent’s not a good vampire, after all.

He doesn’t get the chance, of course. Right then a gigantic wolf and his gigantic wolf friends show up. Bella takes a second to realize they’re big wolves and not bears after all, which kind of runs contrary to the way Bella knew so much about the behavior of predatory animals when James’s group met the Cullens.

9. Laurent’s afraid to be confronted by a pack of huge wolves, which mystifies Bella. “What reason would a vampire have for fearing an animal?” For someone who knows vampires are real, Bella’s closed minded. Remember these wolves are so big people are mistaking them for bears, and it took her a second to recognize them as wolves in the first place. A regular wolf is nowhere near as big as a regular bear. That would kind of suggest something’s up with them. Maybe something…supernatural? Which might allow them to kill something that’s also supernatural? Something that a supernatural being would’ve heard about before?

I again doubt Bella’s knowledge of predators when she waits for “the wolves to turn on me, the much weaker of the available prey.” Maybe that’s why they’re focused on Laurent. He’s another predator in their territory and obviously a greater potential threat than the Codependent Emo Ranger.

10. A reddish brown wolf turns to look at Bella and “I suddenly thought of Jacob.” Take a wild guess why. This isn’t hard to figure out, it doesn’t warrant the space Meyer takes until she reveals the answer.

11. The wolves chase Laurent away and Bella still can’t wrap her headd around the fact that an entire pack of ginormous wolves might be a threat to a vampire. Vampires can be killed, she knows the Cullens killed James, right? She remembers when Edward mentioned committing suicide by provoking the Volturi, right? She remembers worrying the Cullens might get hurt in the process of protecting her and her family from James and Victoria, right?

She drives home and just to make this all more confusing, Bella knows what a jaybird sounds like and what a hemlock tree looks like. Maybe Jacob told her when they were looking for the meadow, but I still feel comfortable blaming an inconsistent author.

12. Once she gets home Bella decides to try honesty for once when Charlie asks what happened to make her all disheveled, and she says she didn’t really go study with one of her "friends," she went walking around in the woods and ran into the bears. Which Charlie has been informed by people who actually do know about animals are really big wolves.

Charlie asks after Jacob, and Bella replies he was still out with mono according to his dad. “It sounded like he was implying that I’d been lying to him this morning. About something besides studying with Jessica.” I thought Bella didn’t lie about Jessica because sooner or later Charlie would talk to Jessica’s mom and Bella would be caught. And Bella lying to Charlie, or to anyone? What a novel concept!

This time she’s innocent, because when Charlie went to hang out with somebody at La Push he saw Jacob up and about. Bella gets it into her head that Jacob didn’t call because he was confronting Sam about the recruitment of his whoever friend. It takes that to get her to open her mind to the possibility Jacob might have other priorities than hanging out with her, huh? Bella does pretty well, all things considered, huh?

13. Bella has a hard time getting to sleep knowing Victoria’s coming after her for revenge. “There was no place I could hide. There was no one who could help me.” Either because you push them away or they’re morons, Bells.

She pins her hopes on that outrageous chance of the huge wolves killing Laurent, and Victoria mistaking his demise for Bella still being under the Cullens’ protection. Even that only made them want to hunt her even more before.

“My good vampires were never coming back.” Kind of casts them in a different light now, huh?

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