Sunday, March 29, 2009

REVIEW: The Vampire Diaries

Smith, L.J. (1991). The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle. New York: HarperTeen.


Tell me if you’ve heard this plot? Teenage girl is strangely attracted to the smart, dangerous, supernaturally-powerful and rich outsider at her school who initially resists his special attraction to her. The eventual and tentative relationship is challenged by another equally powerful and attractive male love interest, forming a love triangle that will drive the rest of the series. Who will she choose who will she chose? Oh yeah, and the writing about all of this conflict, it’s mediocre. I wonder if Stephenie Meyer has read The Vampire Diaries. (It’s possible the answer is no. other (adult) vampire books tend to have the same love triangle themes as well (See Anita Blake Vampire Hunter, Sookie Stackhouse of The Southern Vampire series, etc.)

Published over ten years before the Twilight series, Vampire Diaries has a lot of similarities. But where Bella was angsty and co-dependent, Elena is obsessive, manipulative and the self-described “queen of the school” somehow causing me to dislike her even more than Bella. I didn’t find Elena relatable or redeemable until the end when she was actually contributing to fighting-the-good-fight (unlike other mortal female protagonists in other vampire series).
Still, Elena’s repeated thoughts about possessing Stefan (vampire love interest #1) or dying annoyed me. Her tendency to develop plans to get him and spread false rumors didn’t exactly impress me either. I could see some twelve or thirteen-year-old girls managing to see past all of this in their desire to become a popular high school student. Eventually, I was able to get over my dislike for her when the plot picked up and the dramazz started and Elena decided to make the effort to be less self-involved. But that was around page 150. Now I know part of the point of a novel is that a character changes. Learns. Becomes a better person. Whatever. But I gotta still be able to engage with the character pre-change. And I personally had trouble doing that with Elena. Of course, this could all just be me. Anyone read it? Got something to say? Did Elena float your boat?

The series starts with Elena, arriving home after spending the summer in France. She lives wither her aunt and young sister, since her parents are mysteriously dead. (Yet somehow the way this fact is presented somehow managed to prevent me from sympathizing with the character. Hard to believe, I know). When she returns to school she reclaims her title as “Queen,” and becomes fascinated with the new boy, Stefan, who is also secretly attracted to her, in part because she looks almost exactly like a girl he and his older brother, Damon, had loved when they became vampires during The Renaissance in Italy. Throughout the book, the reader is positioned with Elena, reading from her diary. From time to time, though the reader also gets to see into Stefan’s mind and see his past, including how he became a vampire. Readers will find that the end of the book does not resolve any of the conflict, but that they must continue on to The Struggle and then to The Fury and Dark Reunion.

The reason I chose to start reading this series is because the CW has chosen to turn it into a TV series. They’ve turned a bad YA book series into a successful TV series before. I couldn’t read past page six of the first book of Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl series, but I will only slightly-reluctantly admit to enjoying the TV series. So, I actually find myself looking hopefully (but still suspiciously) forward to the fall for a couple of reasons. Honestly, it’d take a lot of effort on the CW’s part to make the series worse. Plus, there are a lot of good conflicts and themes to work with, once Elena stops being self-involved. And after all, the CW (formerly the WB) did give me Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the series that started my fascination with vampires and helped me survive high school.

In terms of reading the Vampire Diary series, I stopped after The Awakening even though there was no resolution and The Struggle was incorporated to be in the same giant book when the books were republished. Of course, I put down Twilight and didn’t think I’d continue on to the rest of the series. That turned out not to be the case. The conflicts at the end did entertain me, so I’ll probably end up picking up this series again down the road.

Rambling done.  For now.  I promise.

Activities to do with the book:

This is a good book recommendation for students who have fallen in love with the Twilight series. There are a lot of the similar themes and plot devices throughout both series.

Favorite Quotes:

“Dear Diary,
Soemthign awful is going to happen today.
I don’t know why I wrote that” (p. 3).

“Interesting things happen in the dark…sometimes” (p. 164).

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