The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith

I have been a fan of the show this series spawned since it began in 2010. I just can’t pass up a vampire story, even when their not good.

This one I’m not so sure about. The problem is the show. Normally, I’ve read the book before a movie or show comes out and can better understand why things were taken out or changed, even when I disagree. I already know the arc and whether it matters. Here, I’m not so sure. Some of the characters are a little different, but some are incredibly different, like Bonny who is African-American in the show and a ginger in the book with a family history that also changes due to the change in ethnicity.

The origins of some of the characters are entirely different as well. Stefan and Damon are actual from Italy Italians rather than southern Americans with Italian heritage. A part of me hopes it was changed for the better, but who’s to say that Italian Renaissance vampires are more or less interesting than Civil War era vampires? Okay, I’m sure that depends on perspective and background.

But I persevered. I had become interested in the books when I was talking to a friend who read some of them but never watched the show. We tried to talk about the characters and got caught up on some crazy differences but then would agree on parts of the story. It was weird. It had to be reconciled in my mind. Because I’ve been such a huge fan of the show for so long, talking about the book solely on it’s own merit is hard to do, but I’m going to give it a try.

Elena is not a likable character for me here. There’s no depth to her that I could find and her obsession with Stefan is more annoying than anything else. She’s well developed and complex, with the potential for so much more in the next book, but she’s also vain and prideful. The things that occupy her mind just weren’t things I care about. She’s a normal depiction of the vain, selfish, popular, high school girl archetype. While my school wasn’t broken down quite the way TV and movie schools are with well defined cliques and popularity, I would still say that I find myself annoyed with things that I used to prioritize or try to get away with. She reminds me of the part of my high school self that I was less than proud of. It makes her really unlikable for me, but I can see how a current high schooler might like her more. She’s normal and popular.

Also, she is a strong female character. She’s not going to just let anyone take advantage of her. She as much agency as a teenager can be expected to have. She’s not complicated, but she’s a complex character, having weaknesses and strengths that are typical of the archetype she embodies without deviating much from it. Honestly, I wish I’d read the book when I was in high school. I would probably have had much more fun. I was more of a sucker for this kind of love story back then too.

Stefan, on the other hand, is much more likable. He is polite at all times and his troubles are understandable, even relatable. He’s a little angsty sometimes, especially for someone who is supposed to be from the Renaissance, but I get that it’s over his desire to kill and how he handles the plot. Damon was great. He may not be traditionally likable, but he was interesting, which can be better in fiction anyway. The supporting “cast” weren’t terribly developed, but it was only the first book, and it was a short read. There wasn’t much room for development of more than the first few characters. I feel like expecting there to have been more there would be unfair to the book just because I feel like I know the characters so much from the show. Except Bonnie. There was as much about Bonnie as Damon, perhaps as much as Stefan. She’s already an interesting character with a mysterious family history and troubles. She’s likable too and different enough that I feel like I’m getting to know a new character so far.

The story itself is obviously setting up a series right from the beginning, so it feels like the end was a little stunted. It was a cliffhanger, which I don’t think is necessary for a book to turn into a series, but I’ve read a lot about the lengths that authors are allowed for a first book and this one would definitely have gone over if the whole story were crammed into one. I’m glad the author did the cliffhanger instead because the story is set up well this way and I couldn’t imagine it without any them either. It is in no way “bad” as much it is definitely a YA paranormal romance. That’s not to bag on the genre, this book just fits perfectly within it. If that’s not your cup of tea, then don’t read it. If you do enjoy YA paranormal romance, it can be a good one.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to say whether it would be interesting enough to continue if I didn’t already love the characters, the world and the general themes from the television show. I’m not sure I would have finished it, mostly because I’m one of those people that need a likable protagonist most of the time. If I had gotten all the way to the end, I would definitely be getting the next book, though. I wouldn’t be able to resist Damon. I would have gotten to the end based on Stefan’s flashbacks and the promise of Damon, if nothing else.

About the show, if you’re a fan of it, some of the differences can be quite off-putting or disappointing at this stage but some are fun, such as the aforementioned nationality of the Salvatores. I’ll see how it goes because I do intend to finish the series, which has 13 total books that are collected in  The Vampire Diaries (the first four books), The Return TrilogyThe Hunters Trilogy, and The Salvation Trilogy. It should be interesting. I’m fairly certain they go from being different but similar to going way off the rails in the show, which should be interesting.

Have your read any of these books? Do you watch the show? What did you think about them? 

Next up is Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik!

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