The bulk of this chapter takes place in La Push, which is the reservation near Forks. Bella agreed to go with a group so as not to crush Mike’s feelings. Mike becomes over enthusiastic about Bella’s presence during the trip.
“You can have shotgun.” He promised. I hid my chagrin. It wasn’t as simple to make Mike and Jessica happy at the same time. I could see Jessica glowering at us now.
I managed to wedge Jess in between Mike and me in the front of the Suburban. Mike could have been more graceful about it, but at least Jess seemed appeased.
Since I didn’t spend much time around the males of the species as a teenager, I’m not sure if Mike’s behavior here is normal or not. It certainly doesn’t seem logical or polite. It should be clear to Mike that Bella is not interested and Jessica is. If Stephanie Meyer is aiming to paint Mike as an ass, she could do a better job than this. I think she just isn’t really invested in her secondary characters at all. Since they are all bland vanilla human, she doesn’t really care to elaborate on their stories.
There’s a saying in writing that no one is a villain in their own story. Even when writing a character in a minor role, you need to take into account what their stories and motivations might be. For example, if you want to flesh out Mike as a character, you might try looking at what has made him into a douchebag waiting to happen.
We have some context clues. His parents run one of the shops in Forks. It seems to be a fairly popular destination in the area, and Mike’s parents probably make decent money. He’s a well-known guy, and seems fairly decent at sports. He might even play on one of the Fork’s sports teams.
It would be a simple way to explain this sort of behavior if Mike was a big fish in a little pond, and his pursuit of Bella is mostly a way to ease his own insecurities. Think about it. Bella is a rather pretty girl from Phoenix, went to a much larger school and has probably, at least by most people’s reasoning, dated several people. Mike’s pursuit of her might be his way of reassuring himself he can get any girl he likes, and her constant refusal makes it that much more of a challenge to him. It’s not right, it’s a bit creepy and self absorbed, but it’s at least something. In this series, Mike’s characterization is just very inconsistent.
Lauren is also insufferably one note in this chapter.
Lauren and Jessica both fall into this really petty high school relationship drama. Why give us loads of this stuff when it has absolutely no bearing on the plot? Or is it that Meyer knew that these chapters were unbearably slow and needed some fakey tension to keep stringing us along until we get to the non-plot?
I know that women can and will often blame the other woman and not the man who has actually wronged them, but even so.
I also fail to see why Lauren finds Tyler interesting or wants him enough to trash talk Bella because of it. Lauren, you won’t like his idea of a date. Tyler thinks that vehicular manslaughter really sets the mood for a relationship.
There are a couple of other things in this chapter that make it relevant. First is the introduction of Jacob Black. As I’ve said before, I like Jacob. I think he’s a decently written character for the first two books, and is better for Bella than Edward on so many fronts. Meyer must have thought so too, because she has to do severe character derailment to make him less appealing to Bella and the readers.
Jacob’s introduction could have been done much earlier in this book. For example, on the drive back from the airport, when he’s telling her about the truck. She could recall Jacob from her summers in Forks with Charlie. Jacob could have driven it up, and we could have gotten our first glimpse of him, as well as the first inklings of friendship between the two. As close as Billy and Charlie are, I’m surprised we hadn’t seen or heard of him more up until this point. A get together with Billy’s family over dinner wouldn’t have been at all uncommon.
A friendship with Jacob would have strengthened the idea that he could replace Edward in Bella’s life in New Moon. As it is, we know he stands absolutely no chance against Edward and it’s just pitiful to watch. Going with my “Bella Swan: Super sleuth” narrative I mentioned in a previous review, this could have been a lot of fun, suspense, and humor for the reader as Bella tries to figure out the Cullen’s secret and wheedles it out of Jake over the course of time.
For example, if they’d been friends and had spent time together before New Moon an exchange could have gone something like this.
“Sam mentioned the Cullens. What did he mean?” I pressed, leaning my back against the counter.
Jacob bit his lip. “I dunno. I’m technically not supposed to tell you. It’s against tribal law.”
“I can keep a secret.” I promised quickly.
“Are you really encouraging me to break the law in a police officer’s house?”
“It’s tribal law.”
“Still the law.” He argued. He couldn’t hold onto the sternly disapproving expression for long, and it slid back into his usual, easy smile. “C’mon Bells, I can’t do that. Your dad might arrest me. And worse, my dad would kill me.”
“In a police officer’s house?” I mocked.
He laughed at me. “I can’t tell you.”
“I’d pay you.”
“Ouch, Bells. Not in the appetite.”
Yeah, I know a bit OOC, but essentially you could give Bella and Jacob some witty repartee, as well as the opportunity to have fun and get into wacky shenanigans like normal teens.
This knowledge isn’t earned, and it just feels like more of the same theme. The “Bella is pretty but she doesn’t know it” theme really starts to grate after awhile. In Life and Death, the Twilight gender swap narrative, Jacob’s counterpart just tells Beau what he wants to know. There is none of this love triangle crap.
Anyways, in the real narrative, Jacob tells Bella all she needs to know about the Cullens, breaking tribal law in the process. Which brings me to the second thing I dislike about the chapter. The portrayal of the Quileute tribe.
I won’t go into this one too much. This isn’t really my area of expertise and I’ve let this review drag on quite a bit. I’ll leave it at this. I’m in the middle of the road. I don’t think cultural appropriation is good by any means. However I think that you can write a race you’re not if you have people to inform you what you may or may not be doing wrong, you pay careful attention to the history and you do your damned research. Thoroughly and completely to the best of your knowledge.
I appreciate narratives that take a well known culture or premise and do something new with it. Rick Riordan is a fantastic example of adaptation without being offensive. His characters are diverse and none of it is preachy. It is never okay to portray a culture by stereotypes. A lot of the books I review on this site do this. Twilight is the least offensive version of this, but it will get a bit cringey later on in the series.
Back in the narrative, Bella leads Jake on some more. I hate to harp on this, but it could have easily started out as a friendship to begin with that evolves into your love triangle in New Moon, after Edward leaves. Anyways, that’s where our chapter ends. Sorry for rambling on and on. Bad books make me rant.