Mandy Reviews: L.J. Smith—"The Vampire Diaries" (Book 1: The Awakening)
Now, that being said, one is not necessarily better than the other. They’re just different, that’s all. More on the TV series a little later, for now I’m going to concentrate on the first book in the series: The Awakening.
After some initial confusion (blame that on the TV show) as to the identity and appearance of Elena, the main female character, it was all too easy to fall into her world. Told from both a third person point of view, and also from snippets of Elena’s diary, we get to know her very quickly.
Elena is the popular girl at school, the pretty one with a tragic past –who can have anything – or anyone – she wants. That is, until a tall, dark and handsome stranger arrives at school… and doesn’t want anything to do with her. Stefan Salvatore not only drives a Porsche and dresses in designer duds, but has a dark, menacing air about him that intrigues Elena.
Of course, Elena wants what she can’t have, and although it would be easy to dislike her, we’re drawn into her quest to win Stefan’s heart at any cost. While she is busy plotting with her friends how to win over the new boy, a series of mysterious murders and ‘animal’ attacks rock the small town of Fell’s Church, leaving the township buzzing with suspicion.
The narrative of the story switches occasionally, so we get to watch over Stefan as well. This gives the reader an insight into what Elena doesn’t know – Stefan Salvatore is a five-hundred year old vampire. Guilt ridden and remorseful, he feeds only on animal blood. Unfortunately for Stefan, denying his true nature makes him weaker than human-feeding vampires in many ways, as well as permanently starving. This weakness only becomes a problem when another vampire turns up in town…
Apart from the initial confusion – again, caused by expecting the television series to be a similar animal to the book – I did enjoy The Awakening once I was into it. Elena seems to be quite heartless and spoilt, kind of a Scarlett O’Hara type to begin with. But I soon warmed to her, realising the ‘public’ Elena is quite different to the private one – something that most of us can identify with.
The Vampire Diaries was originally published in 1991, but has been re-released and marketed to epic proportions in the last few years to take advantage of the resurgence in vampire fiction. Twenty years on, the story still holds its own as contemporary tale, and the love triangle that develops (not too much on that one for now… I’m not into giving away spoilers) is unique and interesting enough to make you want more. In fact, I liked it enough to pick up book number two, The Struggle the same day I finished The Awakening. (Okay, that might also have had a little to do with the heart-thumping cliff-hanger the book ends on…)
If you enjoy the modern take on vampires – that is, that vamps can fight their primal urges to kill their (human) prey, occasionally hang out in sunlight without burning to a crisp, have deep, lustful emotions and are by nature irresistibly charming and charismatic – then you’ll love The Awakening.
The Vampire Diaries
Book 1 – The Awakening
February 3, 1999, by Harper (imprint of Harper Collins)
Paperback – 253 pages.
ISBN – 978 0 06 202458 9