For this book, being a fan of the show here in the 2010’s is a real hindrance to appreciating what’s going on in the 1990’s book version. It’s a combination of the way the characters are different because of the time and the way that technology changes the story.
Bonnie’s character in the book is such a wimp compared to the fierce witch that I’ve come to know. To be fair, she knows she’s a wimp and desperately wants to rise above it. She does seem to make some strides. Damon doesn’t get near enough time in any of these books. He’s left to be this awesomely mysterious character that no one ever learns the real motivations of. All the reader gets is a bunch of accusations and the occasional explanation. We don’t get to know him, but we get to know Matt. Worse than getting to know Matt was that some descriptions of his better moments went with “like the quarterback that he is”. What?
On the up side, there were some great moments. Klaus was as fun a villain as ever and Meredith is a great character. I liked getting to know her better in this last book because she isn’t a character at all in the show. She gets absorbed into Caroline for the show. This Caroline isn’t bad, but isn’t great either. Like Damon, she’s a secondary character who only serves as a plot device at convenient moments. The main characters are Stefan, Bonnie, Meredith, and Matt.
The other interesting thing about this one was that if you pay attention to the way the plot comes together, it opens up a lot of interesting possibilities for other story lines. It has been one of my favorite things about the show, anything is possible. Just when you think a situation is irreversible, you find out that you are wrong and it makes perfect sense in the world Smith created. That’s part of it, though. No matter how much I may or may not like the individual plots and story lines and characters, Smith is an awesome world builder. It’s a big part of what makes the show work so well independent of the books, as it’s been on long enough that I’m sure they have exhausted the material in the books. Even if they haven’t, that it inspired an entire spin-off series should be evidence enough.
A part of me doesn’t want to recommend this one, though. As a finale to this portion of the series, it’s not all that great for me. The final scene panders a bit too much for me. It didn’t help most of the tropes that have been there from the beginning. I don’t mind a trope character in the beginning, but by the end of the fourth book, I feel like they should be a whole person. I don’t want to be judgey though, it could have not been a trope at the time. I don’t know. If I had read it as a young adult, I would have LOVED this ending and pretty much everything about it.
I saw an article a while back that said that 55% of YA readers are actually adults. If you’re one of those (like I am) then my recommendation is a mixed bag. I really liked most of the story of this book particularly, but really hated the end. Bonnie’s awareness of how much of a wimp she was is almost an awakening, but it’s not explored enough to be really interesting. But Meredith is, and then Matt and Tyler are such tropes that they get on my nerves sometimes. As an adult, it’s important to remember how long ago this was written. It was well before cell phones and on the cusp of the third wave of feminism.
Why is the feminism part important? Well, other than it being the point of this blog, it plays into the characters. This was written before a strong female character became a badass who happens to have boobs. The girls were allowed to be weak and strong at the same time but the boys were only be brave or evil. They had their fears, but they were all strong, all willing to put their lives on the line without question while half were just regular teenagers. It’s not like there were extenuating circumstances, like in Hunger Games. They’re just regular teenagers, and only the girls were allowed to like regular teenagers. Somewhere along the way, we lost the ability to look at complex characters as strong, but this series was written before that. Or at least, long enough ago that Smith didn’t feel the need to play into it.
Have you read the Vampire Diaries? Do you watch the show? What do you think?