Lately, the press hasn’t been kind to Stephenie Meyer. Most reviews criticize her writing and ridicule her for making vampire’s sparkle. The franchise of Rpatz and Kristin has not helped validate Meyer’s writing and world, but has turned the whole thing into a media joke. It is unfortunate I think because when things become branded and whittled down to a finite thing, it takes away from some of the positivity of Meyer’s creativity of spirit and heart-centred writing.
SPOILER ALERT* I refer to some specific things in the novella, so if you don’t want to know, don’t read this post.
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is a publicist’s dream because it gives fans a taste of Meyer –even though what they really want is Midnight Sun (Edward’s side of the story) which thanks to a leak a couple of years ago, may never see the light of day. And it is nice to believe that Meyer wanted to give something back to her fans as they wait for her next book. And good for her! I think any writer would all love the opportunity to publish extra fun gifts to our fans.
Bree Tanner, links to the Eclipse movie quite well because it is a “Eclipse novella” – another side to the vampire world that we haven’t quite seen because of the Cullen family’s “vegetarian” diet. “The newborn life was something I hadn’t ever gotten to explore,” she writes in her introduction, “Bella was never a newborn like Bree…” (Introduction, pg. 3)
Bree Tanner is Meyer’s creative writing exercise. It came out during the editing process of Eclipse. A piece of writing that is too long to fit into a yet-to-be-published Twilight Saga Official Guide, but long enough to be published as a “novella.” The 198 page “novella” is one of self-discovery. Bree is a new born vampire that is part of Victoria’s army to get rid of the Cullens, particularly Bella and Edward who are responsible for killing her man James. She doesn’t quite understand everything that has happened to her or what her role is, but she does what she can to stay out of trouble – essentially out of sight from the crueller gang leaders Riley and Raoul? She also develops a close friendship with Diego, a handsome intelligent vampire who is somewhat “older” than she.
As a writer, I understand the importance of creative exercises. Trying to get into the mindset of a character may involve writing pages about something so that you can understand their perspective and where your story is going. I’ve recognized that trait in my own creative process. Sometimes I just have to write ten pages to see where the real next five are going. I’ve written from character’s perspectives that I have no intention in showing the world – it is meant for my own private files.
Once I finished Bree Tanner, I did what every good book nerd would do – go back to the original source for comparison. Bree shows up from pages 569 to 578 in Eclipse after the Edward and Seth destroy Victoria and Riley. Edward and Bella meet the rest of the Cullens who are waiting for the Volturi to arrive. Bree has surrendered to the Cullens who hope to try and convince Jane to allow them to train her in their ways. For Bella, Bree is representative of what she wants to be. A “mirror” into what she will become once she finally convinces Edward to turn her.
I was annoyed re-reading Bella’s perspective because she always seems to be one step behind everything and confused and completely out of touch with what is happening. Because she feels things so deeply, she is often emotionally out of control causing her to black out or frozen in fear.
It was refreshing to read the scene from Bree’s perspective. Bree lives on the streets. She doesn’t have the comfort to get overly emotional. She needs to stay “alive.” And although sometimes she is passive, I saw it more out of self preservation than fear. In a coven that is made up of new, rash and violent vampires, she cleverly figures out how to keep herself hidden. But, being a newborn, she still has the same brash tendencies and partakes in the hunt. She doesn’t dissolve.
Bree is also a lot smarter than Bella. She is more observant and has better instincts. Where Bella totally misreads the fight between Seth and Edward and Victoria and Riley, and actually makes things worse, Bree quietly and astutely assesses the situation and knows instinctively not to trust the gang leader Riley (even when Diego thinks otherwise). She also bravely accepts her fate – but not before she is sure to have her revenge.
Bella is always enamoured by the Cullens’s beauty – particularly Edward’s “flawless lips” and other manly features. Being a vampire, Bree doesn’t go there. She sees Edward as the “red-headed” vampire or the “mind reader.” She is no more enamoured by his beauty than any other vampire she knows – except maybe Diego. She is struck by Carlisle’s and Esme’s kindness. In Bella’s version, she sees Jasper standing in front of Bree using his talents to placate her. In Bree’s version, we get to see how Jasper affects her as she struggles to maintain balance while burning with hunger.
And there are countless other examples of this which fans will appreciate.
Meyer’s tendency (or decision) to write first person past tense means that we are getting the story from someone who is already dead. It will be rare for someone to read Bree Tanner and not have read Meyer’s other books. So, the reader is going in, already knowing that Bree’s story ends badly. I was reminded of literary novels such as As I Lay Dying and The Stone Diaries, where the narrator speaks from the grave. In this instance, Bree is doing just that. (I imagine that this would make a great High School English Essay.)
The popularity of the Twilight Saga may come from fans crushing on Edward Cullen and Jacob Black. But, this stems from Meyer’s capacity to write interesting and fun characters that she loves and hopes that we can identify with. This is the writer’s goal after all (at least one of them); to write a story in which we care about the protagonist’s journey. And, with Bree…you do.