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Review: Meyer's teen vampire love story concludes with 'Breaking Dawn,' a letdown

When some friends and I met last year to discuss Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, they had complaints, especially about the series finale's pacing. I didn't see a problem. Even after my all-night marathon reading of the book, I would have been happy to have had an extra hundred pages of gnome mischief and wizardry if it meant spending extra time with J.K Rowling's magic.

But now, after an all-nighter reading Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer's conclusion to her Twilight saga, I understand not only what my friends meant, but also how my excitement could blind me from noticing a novel's blemishes.

Meyer's fans, most of them teenage girls, will devour these pages. In many ways, this final chapter in the love story of teenager Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen is a fitting conclusion.

I won't spoil the book's pleasures by revealing many details here, but Meyer begins just days before Bella and Edward's wedding, and as the narrative coasts along a natural trajectory, she ties up almost every loose end left dangling in previous books. If you had any questions about hunting or the ins and outs of vampires' sex lives, Meyer provides answers.

Still, once the euphoria about the novel's release dies off, I suspect many readers won't revisit Breaking Dawn the way they have repeatedly combed through the three earlier novels of the series.

The problem here is the story — or the lack of one. For the most part, rather than serving as a climactic fourth chapter to the bestselling series, this book is a long, dragged-out epilogue filled with an author's indulgences for her characters.

There's a grand, soap-opera style wedding that far outdoes anything Luke and Laura could have conceived, an exotic honeymoon on a private island and, not that I want to seem fixated, enough headboard-gouging vampire sex to relieve the sexual tension built up over more than 1,700 pages in previous books.

And that's about it. At Page 300, I was still waiting for the story to take off, a sensation that lasted until Page 544, when Meyer finally breathes life into her narrative.

The novel has other problems as well, the most jarring of which concerns some overly pat resolutions involving Bella's parents. At one point, Meyer conveniently holds on to the tired joke that a televised football game can distract a man from just about anything.

With these flaws, Breaking Dawn is certainly the weakest chapter in the Twilight saga, but it is more of a letdown than a failure. It has its moments, and in the most important way, it measures up to the lofty standards set by its predecessors.

Even with a story line mired in the fantastic, these books accurately capture the adolescent experience, especially through Bella's perspective. Meyer succeeds in this aspect well enough for this novel to hold up under its bloated weight. Her most rabid fans will be satisfied, but Breaking Dawn leaves this reader craving a more substantial meal.

Vikas Turakhia teaches English in Ohio.

Breaking Dawn

By Stephenie Meyer

Little, Brown and Co., 768 pages, $22.95

Review: Meyer's teen vampire love story concludes with 'Breaking Dawn,' a letdown 08/09/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 6:07pm]
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