After months of promising, I’m finally doing it. I’m rereading and discussing The Vampire Diaries.
I had initially planned on doing the first three books in one fell swoop, but I have a lot to say about the first book alone. And, seeing as I don’t have a copy of The Fury yet, it makes sense to split them up.
For those of you who are new and haven’t heard about this, The Vampire Diaries was one of my favorite series in high school. I reread the first six books dozens of times. I was obsessed.
And then, out of nowhere, I fell out of love with the series. It’s been about ten years since I read it last. So I thought it’d be fun to do a reread and discussion of the series. But only the first three books because they make a full arc. And today, I’m starting with book one.
So, how do I feel about The Awakening? Does it hold up? My answer may surprise you (or it may not, I don’t know).
Elena is, in short, a selfish, manipulative bitch. I did not remember this about her. She’s vain, obsessed with her image, and only gives a passing care to any hurt she causes others. How in the hell did readers ever find her charming and likable?
Elena always makes sure to remind the reader how pretty and desirable she is. All the boys love her. Elena makes a point to tell us that she knows they feel nervous before dates with her. It’s one thing to be self-confident, but this is ridiculous.
However, the worst part is how she treats other people. My favorite example is the Jean-Claude incident. Basically, Elena spent the summer in France. When she got back, she broke up with her boyfriend Matt. Then she meets Stefan, who continuously rejects and avoids her.
Elena decides she must have him, even telling Bonnie she’s not allowed to show interest in him. She then spreads a rumor than Stefan is a narc, so girls will stay away from him. Then, supposedly to save face after being publicly rejected, she spreads a rumor that she had been dating an older guy named Jean-Claude while in France (and thus isn’t even interested in Stefan).
This hurts two people: Stefan and Matt. Stefan is hurt because people are avoiding him (the fact that this is what he wants is irrelevant because Elena doesn’t know that). Matt is hurt because he thinks the girl he loves cheated on him. Elena doesn’t even give a passing thought to Matt until she runs into him and sees that he’s sad.
Basically, Elena Gilbert starts the series as a selfish brat who only cares about herself. Matt himself put it best when he said, “You twist people around your little finger, and I don’t think you even know you’re doing it… You only want everybody and everything revolving around Elena Gilbert. You only want what you don’t have.” And he is absolutely right. But that doesn’t stop the narrative from acting like she’s God’s gift to men.
There’s not a lot to say about Stefan, mostly because he’s pretty boring in this book. All he does is have flashbacks and pine after Elena. The most interesting thing he does is also the worst thing he does.
Stefan is what is commonly referred to as a “vegetarian vampire.” Contrary to what this suggests, this means he only drinks blood from animals but not humans. Except for the old homeless man he drinks from. Which I guess is okay in his mind. The implication is that his life has less value than someone with a home or youth. So… that’s ugly.
Also, it seems that Stefan doesn’t choose not to drink from humans because of some moral reasoning. He doesn’t drink from humans because that makes vampires more powerful and he refuses to use his powers. Because… he hates being a vampire, I guess?
Oh, and there’s also this from Elena’s diary:
“Last week in history class, I glanced up and caught him looking at me. We were sitting a few seats apart, and he was turned completely sideways in his desk, just looking. For a moment I felt almost frightened, and my heart started pounding, and we just stared at each other— and then he looked away. But since then it’s happened twice more.”
What else can I say but “yikes”?
But yeah, Stefan Salvatore is pretty much just a self-loathing, broody character. Who is also very dull.
There’s also not a lot to say about Damon, mainly because he doesn’t even appear until over halfway into the book. He remains the most interesting, mainly in how unapologetic he is about being a monster.
He’s also hard to qualify because how in the hell does he have the same type as Stefan? Twice he’s fallen for the same girl as Stefan and twice we see no reason as to why. He just… decides he’s in love with her.
Regardless, Damon Salvatore is the character I’m most interesting in following in the next two books. At least he does something.
I remember being annoyed by Bonnie when I first read the series because she’s very cowardly. But now I’m like… of course she is. She regularly gets possessed, has horrifying visions, and lives in a town constantly ravaged by supernatural terrors. She has the most normal reaction.
Plus, she lives in a near constant state of fear but still faces down danger. She’s a bigger badass than all the other characters combined.
I love Meredith because she’s a realist and is also the smartest of the group. She’s also definitely a lesbian, regardless of what canon says.
Matt is hands down the best person in the entire cast and deserves way better than he gets. No matter what Elena and her friends do to him, he still helps them because he cares. #JusticeForMattHoneycutt2k19
She’s just your average mean girl. She serves no purpose except to be a rival for Elena.
He’s an entitled asshole who sexually assaults Elena. He continues kissing her after she says no and tries to fight him off and rips her dress. The only reason he stops is because Stefan shows up and kicks his ass. So really the purpose of him being an almost-rapist is just to bring Elena and Stefan closer which is… gross.
The good news is Elena reports him to the cops, which encourages readers to do the same if they’re assaulted. Except then she doesn’t press charges. So… then the narrative immediately takes that back. Yay!
I just think it’s weird that Stefan keeps describing her as “fragile” and “delicate,” when she’s the vampire that turned him. She doesn’t seem all that fragile. She literally turns both brothers without telling them and then says they can all be together forever. And then kills herself to “bring them together.” She’s as selfish and manipulative as Elena. (Also she doesn’t really kill herself, but we don’t find that out until The Fury.)
So, there is absolutely no plot in this novel. There’s not even a character-driven plot. Things just kind of… happen. There’s a vague threat of mysterious attacks, but most of the story is devoted to Elena trying to win over Stefan.
The Awakening is pretty much just set-up for the rest of the story. It even has the most lackluster cliffhanger I’ve ever read. That’s probably why the first four books are usually sold as two-book bind-ups.
The writing is fairly average. It’s nothing to write home about. However, it occasionally gets really bad. Case in point, this lovely depiction of word association: “White owl… hunting bird… flesh eater… crow, she thought. ‘Biggest crow I’ve ever seen,’ Matt had said.” Wow. Absolutely stunning.
The other main issue is the heavy-handed foreshadowing. I’m sure it’s not just because I know what happens in The Struggle and The Fury that it’s so obvious to me. Here are three times Elena talks about dying or is compared to a tragic figure:
“She’d have him if it killed her.”
“If I don’t find something to do soon, I’ll— I was going to say ‘die.’”
“It just occurred to me that Elena is a form of the name Helen. And for some reason I was thinking of Helen of Troy… Beautiful and doomed.”
What do you think happens to Elena in the next two books? Take a wild guess.
Stefan and Elena have the worst case of instalove I’ve ever read about. Yes, they spend about two months utterly obsessed with each other (Elena even sometimes doesn’t eat because she’s too busy thinking about Stefan), but they also hardly speak to each other. But then they kiss one (1) time and suddenly they’re in love.
I mean. I mean.
So, does The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening hold up? No, not at all. From where I’m standing right now, I can’t even fathom why I was once so obsessed with it. But hey, maybe my opinion will change with the next two installments. Stranger things have happened.
Also, the tagline being “A love triangle of unspeakable horror” is endlessly funny to me.