This review was created by the editorial staff at Thriving Family magazine
This fantasy/romance book is fourth in the " Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer and is published by Little, a division of the Hachette Book Group.
Breaking Dawn is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Bella Swan, newly graduated from high school, marries her vampire soul mate, Edward Cullen. They honeymoon on a remote tropical island for several weeks. When Bella feels ill and realizes she's pregnant, Edward rushes her home. The Cullens have never heard of a vampire-human hybrid, so they worry about what sort of monster might be growing inside Bella at such an alarming rate. Edward promises that Dr. Carlisle Cullen will "take care of" the preborn child, but Bella refuses to go through with the abortion. The baby breaks her bones and seems to be killing her from within. On a hunch, Dr. Cullen gives Bella human blood to drink. Once Bella begins this regimen, the baby becomes more cooperative.
Bella's best friend, Jacob, is repulsed to learn she's allowing a monster to grow inside of her. Jacob is a Quileute Indian. His tribesmen have been mortal enemies of vampires for generations. Some Quileutes, including Jacob, turn into wolves when they sense danger from vampires. Though the Quileutes and Cullens have worked together in the past to protect Bella, the unknown creature in Bella's womb now makes the tribe nervous.
Sam, the leader of the wolf pack, wants to protect the tribe and the town by attacking the Cullens and destroying the fetus. While Jacob loathes the baby that's killing Bella, he loves his friend and wants her to be happy. He breaks off from the wolf pack, inadvertently starting his own pack when Seth Clearwater and his sister, Leah, submit to his leadership. The three patrol the area around the Cullens' home to protect Bella and the other vampires from wolves.
After a short gestation period, Bella begins to vomit blood. The baby can't breathe, and Bella is near death. Jacob administers CPR to Bella while Edward chews through her skin and the thick coating surrounding the baby. Renesmee (named for Bella's and Edward's mothers, Renee and Esme) emerges healthy and beautiful. The only way for Edward to save Bella from death is to force his venom into her system and turn her into a vampire. When his efforts seem to have failed, and they think Bella is gone, Jacob rushes downstairs where Renesmee sleeps. In his fury, he prepares to destroy the child. But when he looks in her face, a Quileute magic called imprinting takes over. Jacob realizes he has met his soul mate. Jacob's imprinting on Renesmee also means the Quileutes must no longer attempt to harm the baby.
Bella's heart stops, but Edward has successfully changed her into a vampire. After enduring days of excruciating pain, Bella is able to test out her new body. The Cullens keep her away from humans, including Renesmee, until they learn how she will react. Bella proves less volatile and more controlled than most newborn vampires. She can interact safely with her daughter, Jacob and other humans. Bella is thrilled with her beautiful, strong, new body. She learns to hunt large animals like the other Cullens (who try to be civilized and refrain from eating humans). She and the others remain concerned about Renesmee growing at such a rapid pace. Carlisle tries to research this phenomenon to estimate how quickly Renesmee will become full-grown and how long she'll live.
One day, a vampire named Irina sees Bella, Jacob and Renesmee hunting in the woods. Viewing them from a distance and recognizing Bella, Irina assumes Renesmee is an immortal child. The Volturi ordered long ago that all immortal children — people turned into vampires during childhood — must be destroyed. Alice, Edward's sister-in-law, foresees that Irina will tell the Volturi what she thinks she's seen. The Volturi will then come to Forks to mete out justice. The Cullens quickly contact their vampire friends around the globe, asking them to come meet Renesmee. In order to avoid a battle, they need their friends to bear witness to what Renesmee is before the Volturi strike. The Cullens' home soon teams with dozens of vampires from around the world. The Volturi arrive, as Alice predicted, with their full army and entourage. A tense and lengthy stand-off ensues. Even when the Volturi concede that Renesmee is not an immortal child, they still consider destroying her since they don't know if she is a danger to the vampire lifestyle. Just when a battle seems imminent, Alice and her soul mate, Jasper Cullen, arrive with a vampire woman and her nephew, Nahuel. Nahuel is a human-vampire hybrid like Renesmee, the only one that the vampires have ever seen. He not only offers proof that hybrids pose no danger, but he brings hope to Jacob and the Cullens concerning Renesmee's lifespan. Nahuel became fully mature at 7 years but has continued to live for several hundred years. The Volturi recognize their defeat and return to Italy.
Fearing the Cullens will be destroyed by the Volturi, Bella ponders what may be on "the other side" for her and Edward. Edward doesn't believe vampires have hope of a heaven, but Carlisle does. Bella decides she doesn't care where she ends up; if she's with Edward, it will be a happy ending. Later, Bella wonders if Edward has more hope of an afterlife than he lets on.
Other Belief Systems
Many vampires have unique abilities beyond the standard strength and stealth. Edward can read people's thoughts (except for Bella's), Alice can see the future to a degree, and Jasper has the ability to influence the feelings and emotions of those around him. Bella can create a shield that allows her to protect others from an enemy attack. By touching people's faces, Renesmee can show people events she's witnessed in the past. Many of the other vampires that visit the Cullens, as well as the Volturi, also display unique skills.
The Volturi govern the vampire world with little compassion or grace. They feel safe with their rules and traditions, believing that anything unknown is dangerous. Their legalism ultimately turns many vampires against them. They've long believed "immortal children," or humans who became vampires as kids, were a threat to their way of life. Since these vampires would never grow up, their immaturity and volatility would likely cause them to expose their true nature, endangering humans and other vampires. The Volturi have ordered that all immortal children must be destroyed.
Magic has run through the Quileute Indians' blood for generations. One manifestation of this magic is their ability to shape-shift when they or other humans are in danger. In their wolf form, the pack members can read each other's thoughts clearly. The wolves must submit to the Alpha wolf without question. Quileutes know how to imprint. This is a mystical, involuntary action where a Quileute instantly realizes a specific person is his soul mate. Since the Quileutes are able to slow down their aging process, an older person (like Jacob) can imprint on a young child and wait for her to grow up so they can be together romantically. Jacob is lovingly protective and kind to Renesmee but does not think of her romantically or sexually.
Several times, Bella thinks she sees almost visible auras around people or places. She says she takes mythology a lot more seriously since becoming a vampire. Bella believes she was born to be a vampire; she feels much more joy in life after her transition.
Several dozen uses of words like h---, d--n, suck, p-ssed and crap appear. Bella has gory dreams that include piles of dead human bodies drained of blood. Bella drinks numerous cups of human blood to calm down her preborn child. Bella even admits it tastes good to her. As she prepares to give birth, Bella begins vomiting fountains of blood. Blood vessels break in her eyes, and she screams and shrieks, demanding they remove the baby because it can't breathe. The baby continues to break Bella's bones, and Edward chews the baby out of Bella's body. An extremely bloody child emerges and bites Bella's breast, causing more blood. Bella is about to die when Edward tears his teeth into her skin over and over, tying to force vampire venom into her system. Jacob later says he wishes he could pour bleach in his brain to burn away the images of all the screaming, bleeding, crunching and snapping as the baby came out.
Bella endures further unfathomable pain as her body processes the vampire venom. In her agony, she recalls being attacked by a vampire named James (in Twilight). She says that experience would have felt like resting on a feather bed by comparison. She would take a hundred such attacks over the pain of her transformation.
The wolves and vampires hunt animals like lions and deer, snapping their necks, choking off their screams, drinking their blood and devouring them. When the Volturi discover Irina's accusation about Renesmee is incorrect, they promptly attack Irina and burn her remains in front of their large vampire audience.
When Bella and Edward tell her dad they're engaged, Charlie assumes Bella is pregnant. After they convince him she's not, he asks why they're marrying so quickly. Edward says since they're going off to college together in the fall, he wants to do things the right way. Bella says Charlie can't argue because that would be like saying he preferred them to live in sin.
Throughout their relationship, Edward has spent most nights in Bella's room holding her and watching her sleep. He established boundaries for their physical relationship, mainly because he was afraid he would harm her with his super-human strength if things became too sexual. His concern proves true on their honeymoon, when Bella wakes up with bruises all over her body. She doesn't feel the pain, but Edward berates himself for injuring her. Bella has difficulty convincing him to sleep with her again. Eventually, he does and is able to control himself more effectively. While still on their honeymoon, Bella holds up a box of tampons and tells Edward her period is late. Within a few days, her pregnancy is already visible.
As Bella grows weaker through her pregnancy, an agonized Edward pulls Jacob aside. He suggests Jacob offer to father a child for Bella if she wants one so badly, as long as she will agree to get rid of the monster growing inside of her now. Jacob considers the proposal, thinking of how many times he's fantasized about being with Bella sexually. Ultimately, he can't bring himself to suggest Edward's plan to her. As Bella prepares to give birth, Jacob can't look. He recalls the many times he's imagined her naked, but he fears the type of memories that might be stuck in his head if he watches.
Jacob calls nudity an inconvenient but unavoidable part of being a wolf, since clothing rips off the Quileutes when they morph. He mentions the difficulties of adding Leah, a female, to the pack. It's not that she wasn't worth looking at, he says. But since she could read the other wolves' thoughts, she chided them later for thinking about her nude. Jacob and the other wolves can't avoid hearing Leah's inner panic when she thought she was pregnant. Jacob says it had been long enough since she'd been with someone that there would have had to be some "religious immaculate crap" going on for her to be pregnant. Leah also tells Jacob that the way her body works now, it's like she's 20 years old and menopausal.
Bella discovers she has not lost her sexual urges as a newborn vampire. Vampires have insatiable, passionate, furniture-damaging sex (and a lot of it, since they never need to sleep). Edward's brother, Emmett, makes frequent innuendos about Bella and Edward's sex life in front of others until Bella silences him by beating him in arm wrestling.
Nahuel was born out of a womanizing vampire's love affair with Nahuel's mother. The vampire fathered several other hybrid children as well.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics :
Why do the Volturi insist that only what is known is safe, while the unknown is a possible vulnerability?
What are they afraid will happen if they allow something unknown to exist?
When is the unknown dangerous?
When is the unknown worth the risk of exploring?
Why is it challenging for the Cullens and wolves to become allies?
How do they overcome their differences to work together?
Do you have "enemies" in your life?
How do you overcome your opposing views?
How does the Bible say we should treat our enemies?
How do the Cullens differ from other vampire families?
What are their values and beliefs?
Why do they work so hard to live them out?
Do you ever find it difficult to stand by values that may be different from those of your friends?
Why is it important for your behavior to match up with your beliefs?
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Readability Age Range
12 and up
Little, a division of the Hachette Book Group
WHSmith Children's Book of the Year, 2009; Teen Choice Book of the Year, 2009; Children's Choice Author of the Year for Breaking Dawn, 2009