“I began to feel like I was treading water, instead of drowning in it.”
My concern for Bella’s mental health has only grown with this chapter. I think she might have, like, clinical depression. Our protagonist is not well.
The start of Chapter 2 has a sort of Tale of Two Cities homage – “The next day was better… and worse.” The following two paragraphs explain how it was better and worse with some intentionally redundant phrasing. The effect is kind of clumsy ultimately, but it’s an interesting experiment.
Bella as an unreliable – and deeply disturbed – narrator actually kind of works in some ways. Some of the narration is experimental and clumsy like teenage poetry, which, considering who Bella is and what’s going on with her, can almost kind of work. It might be giving Stephenie Meyer more credit than is due, but there is at least some potential for a good story here.
One of the common criticisms I hear about Twilight is that Bella is shrewish in how she spurns the attention of other boys in favor of Edward, who’s cold to her. While I know that the relationship she forms with Edward is not healthy, what I’ve read of the book so far really doesn’t make me think the other boys would be better. Speaking as a former obnoxious teenage boy, the behavior Bella that describes – of them swarming her and giving her a lot of unwanted attention – is both common and off-putting, and something women have a right to object. Ironically, Edward is currently the least predatory teenage boy in Bella’s life – the only one that isn’t actively pursuing her. I can understand the appeal of that.
“I couldn’t get rid of the nagging suspicion that I was the reason [Edward] wasn’t there. It was ridiculous, and egotistical, to think that I could affect anyone that strongly… And yet I couldn’t stop worrying that it was true.” Meyer’s pretty good at capturing the neurotic anxieties people can have.
Bella’s parents both seem at a loss when it comes to her needs. Her dad is well meaning but doesn’t know how to cook or care for a kid, while her mom has trouble keeping track of her life without her (teenage) daughter’s help. Bella has to compensate for their inadequacies sometimes, and that can be rough on a teen – and probably explains some of Bella’s issues. She’s got too much weight on her shoulders and is being forced to grow up faster than she should. Again, I don’t want to give too much praise or make more of what is there, but this is relatively well done so far. Good job Meyer.
This chapter has the first conversation between Bella and Edward, and it’s sort of endearingly awkward. Edward’s speech is a little archaic, which is either a neat touch or bad writing. I can’t tell which. Neither one of them quite knows how to approach each other, which puts them on even footing despite the fact that one is a supernatural murder monster. It’s even kind of sweet. I can see the appeal is what I’m getting at – and, despite being a bloodsucking corpse man, Edward is a lot more respectful of Bella’s boundaries than the other boys have been so far.
Edward also asks Bella the question that’s been bugging me: why did Bella come for Forks? It turns out Bella moved because her mother remarried with a man who moves around a lot, and was getting depressed by staying home with Bella. In essence, Bella moved to Forks to help her mother be with the one she loves. This kind of sheds a lot of light on Bella’s values and psychology. It’s a good plot point. And Edward picks up on it. He understands that Bella is suffering a lot. It makes the attraction understandable.
You could make a good story out of this. In fact, Meyer’s isn’t really that bad so far.