The final movie in the Twilight saga came out just eight years ago but already feels like a phenomenon from another age. So it goes with teenage obsessions, whether that be Bros, Taylor Swift’s Nashville phase or Robert Pattinson playing a sad vampire with a vast square head. Later generations are invariably baffled by the fuss. Just wait and see what kids a decade from now think of Ed Sheeran and TikTok.
In the case of Twilight, the slow-moving and chaste tale of a brooding vampire and the tomboyish new girl (played in the films by Kristen Stewart) who captures his heart has since been eclipsed by more grounded and politically engaged “young adult” books and movies. Twilight is YA fiction rooted in the pre hashtag era and may strike modern teens as quaint and coy about social issues. It is about as “woke” as a vampire snoozing in a coffin.
Still the millennials who make up the vast Twilight fanbase aren’t going anywhere and anticipation is high for the first new novel in Stephenie Meyer’s saga since 2015. That previous book, Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined, was a gender-swapping retelling. Hunky blood-slurper Edward Cullen became “Edythe”, punky mortal Bella Swan was reintroduced as “Beau”. As critics noted, much of the text was copied and pasted straight from Twilight.
Meyer tries another ambitious conceit on for size in Midnight Sun. It’s a remix of the original 2005 Twilight novel – adapted more or less faithfully in the film of three years later – with the story this time relayed from the perspective of Edward.
When Twilight appeared in the mid 2000s, Meyer was derided for what reviews judged her clunking prose and linear storytelling. She was no stylist, it’s true. But she clearly cared for her characters. And, in Bella, she captured the contradictory emotions of a lovestruck teenager aware she was rushing towards her adulthood a little too quickly.
She is just as effective clambering inside the head of perpetually glum Edward, instantly infatuated when Arizona transplant Bella arrives for her first day at school in the backwater of Fork, Washington State and sits beside him at biology.
Edward is moody, paranoid and besotted every step of the way. We know this because his thoughts are strung together like lyrics from a My Chemical Romance b-side.
“I was a vampire,” he grumbles early on. “And she had the sweetest blood I’d smelled in more than eighty years.”. One unsettling aside Meyer fortunately doesn’t dwell on is the fact that Edward became a vampire when dying of Spanish flu in 1918.
The big thrill for Twilight true believers will be observing a familiar story play out, beat by beat, but from a different viewpoint. Edward breathlessly describes rescuing Bella from a skidding van – the interaction that enflames their passion. Later they share one of the most epic first snogs in romantic fiction. And then he explains why it is impossible for them to sleep together (short answer: he might lose the run and accidentally start chomping on her head).
Amid all the mooching and not-having-sex Meyer stirs in a decent thriller plot too. The antagonist is an evil “tracker” blood drinker called James (yes, the name could be slightly scarier). Determined to snack on Bella he pretends to take her mother hostage and then, luring the teenager into an ambush, tries to have his vampiric way with her.
Of course, fans will know all that already. The difference is that now they can accompany Edward and the rest of his Cullen clan as he sets off to rescue his love and is then shocked when, in her hospital bed, she pleads with him to turn her into a vampire so that they may be together forever.
So it’s the same destination as Twilight, via a slightly different route. But Meyer is genuinely invested Edward and Bella, and their dream of a shared life, and her devotion is infectious. If predictable in places, Midnight Sun is no teenage fang dud.
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer is published by Little, Brown Book Group. Buy from the Telegraph bookshop for £20