Meyer described the cover as "extremely meaningful" and said that she was "really happy with how it turned out". The cover is a metaphor for Bella's progression throughout the entire series; she began as the physically weakest player on the board, the pawn, but at the end she becomes the strongest, the queen. The chessboard also hints at the conclusion of the novel "where the battle with the Volturi is one of wits and strategy, not physical violence."
The title, Breaking Dawn, is a reference to the beginning of Bella's life as a newborn vampire.Originally, Meyer wanted to title the book Forever Dawn, but she thought the name was very "cheesy". Wanting to add a "sense of disaster" to the title to match the novel's mood, she called it Breaking Dawn. Another reason for giving the book this particular title is that it matches the book's plot, which centers around "a new awakening and a new day and there's also a lot of problems inherent in it".
Breaking Dawn is split into three separate parts. The first part details Bella's marriage and honeymoon with Edward, which they spend on a private island, called Isle Esme, off the coast of Brazil. Two weeks into their honeymoon, Bella realizes that she is pregnant with a half-vampire, half-human child and that her condition is progressing at an unnaturally accelerated rate. After contacting Carlisle, who confirms her pregnancy, she and Edward immediately return home to Forks, Washington. Edward, concerned for Bella's life and convinced that the fetus is a monster as it continues to develop with unnatural rapidity, urges her to have an abortion. However, Bella feels a connection with her unborn baby and refuses.
The novel's second part is written from the perspective of shape-shifter Jacob Black, and lasts throughout Bella's pregnancy and childbirth. Jacob's Quileute wolf pack, not knowing what danger the unborn child may pose, plan to destroy it and kill Bella. Jacob vehemently protests this decision and leaves, forming his own pack with Seth and Leah Clearwater. The fetus in Bella's body grows swiftly and Bella soon gives birth, but the baby breaks many of her bones and she loses massive amounts of blood. In order to save her life, Edward changes her into a vampire by injecting his venom into her heart. Jacob, who was present for the birth, almost immediately "imprints"—an involuntary response in which a shape-shifter finds his soul mate—on Edward and Bella's newborn daughter, Renesmee.
The third section of Breaking Dawn shifts back to Bella's perspective, describing Bella's painful transformation and finding herself changed into a vampire and enjoying her new life and abilities. However, the vampire Irina misidentifies Renesmee as an "immortal child", a child who has been turned into a vampire. Because "immortal children" are uncontrollable, creating them has been outlawed by the Volturi. After Irina presents her allegation to the Volturi, they plan to destroy Renesmee and the Cullens. In an attempt to survive, the Cullens gather other vampire clans from around the world to stand as witnesses and prove to the Volturi that Renesmee is not an immortal child. Upon confronting the gathered Cullen allies and witnesses, the Volturi discover that they have been misinformed and immediately execute Irina for her mistake.
However, they remain undecided on whether Renesmee should be viewed as a threat to vampires' secret existence. At that time, Alice and Jasper, who had left prior to the confrontation, return with a Mapuche called Nahuel, a 150-year-old vampire-human crossbreed like Renesmee. Nahuel demonstrates that the crossbreeds pose no threat, and the Volturi leave. Edward, Bella, and Renesmee return to their home in peace.