I love watching The Vampire Diaries TV series and have been meaning to read the books by L.J. Smith for a while now. The first two books in The Vampire Diaries series are The Awakening and The Struggle.
The Awakening: Popular high school senior, Elena Gilbert, is determined to get enigmatic new boy, Stefan Salvatore. Yet Stefan harbours a dark secret and when Elena learns of this, her life will never be the same again.
The Struggle: Elena wavers in her feelings between Stefan, and his brother, Damon. Damon is the antithesis of Stefan and he wants to lure Elena to the dark side. But these brothers have shadowy secrets and a bitter hatred for each other which endangers them all.
My review – contains spoilers!
Some of the characters’ names and appearances are different to the TV series which took some getting used to. I tried to think of the books as separate from the TV series, though. In the books, we are introduced to a range of characters. Some of them don’t appear on the TV show, like Margaret, but we also have the familiar characters like Matt and Alaric.
The author, L.J. Smith, draws on elements from Dracula – Stefan and Damon have the ability to turn into animals. She also adds some original twists to the vampire genre, that is, the Powers and the daylight rings. L.J. Smith wrote these books in 1991 and there are some striking similarities to Twilight. This includes a high school student who falls in love with a vampire as well as a love triangle.
It’s hard to like the main character, Elena. She is the most popular girl in high school and acts selfishly. Elena dumps Matt for Stefan who’s handsome, exotic and mysterious. She also uses Matt to get closer to Stefan. Matt makes a good observation of Elena’s nature when he tells her, “You only want everybody and everything revolving around Elena Gilbert…You only want everything you don’t have”. It’s harsh but true. Elena becomes obsessed with attracting Stefan and this clouds her judgement. She tells Stefan she loves him very soon after they have known each other for a brief period. Elena is also very trusting of Stefan, considering he’s a vampire.
Out of the two books, I preferred The Struggle. The second book picks up the pace and is full of action. The most interesting character in these books is Damon who is dangerous and sinister. Stefan has a “woe is me” vibe, whereas Damon embraces his vampire nature. He is also honest with Elena in his feelings for her, unlike Stefan. Some of Damon’s lines made me smile, like when he tells Elena: “I may just have to make you my Queen of Shadows”. Ha!
I couldn’t really believe Stefan and Elena’s relationship as it progresses so fast. They don’t seem to share any common ground, either. I was surprised Elena and Stefan become engaged after only 3 months. Also, Elena is 17 and she’s still in high school!
Elena’s friend-turned-enemy in these books is Caroline. Caroline tries to act sophisticated and cool, but she’s actually immature. For instance, she tells Elena, “…just maybe your time on the throne is running out”. So childish! Caroline also steals Elena’s diary. What is she, 12?
Amidst the drama with Caroline and the longing for Stefan, there are also some welcome light touches of humour in these books. An example is when Elena shows Snowball, the cat, to Damon.
I think I would have enjoyed these books more if I was a teenager. That’s why I actually prefer the TV series to The Vampire Diaries books. The books are aimed at teenagers, whereas the TV series has a more universal audience. Saying that, L.J. Smith does have a good imagination, and The Struggle has a cliff-hanger ending which makes me want to find out what happens next.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐