Reception of Breaking Dawn was, at best, "mixed". Lev Grossman wrote, "First, since there's a lot of one-star reviews up on Amazon, let me say up front: I loved Breaking Dawn." Cara von Wrangel Kinsey of School Library Journal responded with a positive review, describing the book as "captivating" and noting, "While this novel is darker and more mature than the earlier titles, Meyer's twists and turns are not out of character." The Charlotte Observer agreed and called the book "pretty darned good", but criticized the book's length saying, "I wish [Stephenie Meyer] hadn't felt compelled to pack so much into one volume. It should have been two books." Mary Harris Russell of the Chicago Tribune also responded with a positive review and hailed the book as a "fun read", noting that Stephenie Meyer "continues to produce witty writing about families, teenagers and popular culture", while Time called the book "a wild but satisfying finish to the ballad of Bella and Edward" and gave it a rating of A-. An article in The Daily News Tribune said of Breaking Dawn, "Some of the dialog is a bit stilted,... but, if you stay close to Meyer's rich and prodigious narrative, you too might fall in love with its suspense and moving sensitivity".
Publishers Weekly stated that the main problem with Breaking Dawn was that, "Essentially, everyone gets everything they want, even if their desires necessitate an about-face in characterization or the messy introduction of some back story. Nobody has to renounce anything or suffer more than temporarily—in other words, grandeur is out." In an article by The Associated Press, journalist Sara Rose wrote on NewsOK.com that fans of the series would love "engaging characters, great humor, a distracting obsession with beauty, focus on the minutiae of emotions"; however "casual readers may be disappointed with a lot of build-up and little action." The Independent called the book, "shockingly, tackily, sick-makingly sexist" and said that "Bella Swan lives to serve men and suffer." Entertainment Weekly graded Breaking Dawn with a D, criticizing the birth scene and Bella's "unwavering passion for Edward" and having no other goals. The Washington Post also responded with a negative review, making comments such as, "Meyer has put a stake through the heart of her own beloved creation," and "Breaking Dawn has a childbirth sequence that may promote lifelong abstinence in sensitive types."
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Meyer responded to the negative response of many fans to the book and called it the "Rob Effect"; she said that the fans need time to accept the ending of Breaking Dawn, just as they needed time to accept Robert Pattinson playing the role of Edward in the Twilight movie.