Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle by L.J. Smith

6602822Title: The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle
Author: L.J. Smith
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Vampires, The Vampire Diaries
Rating: 2 stars

Elena: the golden girl, the leader, the one who can have any boy she wants.
Stefan: brooding and mysterious, he seems to be the only one who can resist Elena, even as he struggles to protect her from the horrors that haunt his past.
Damon: sexy, dangerous, and driven by an urge for revenge against Stefan, the brother who betrayed him. Determined to have Elena, he’d kill to possess her.
Collected here in one volume for the first time, volumes one and two of The Vampire Diaries, the tale of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.

In The Awakening, golden girl Elena Gilbert meets the new and extraordinary boy in town, Stefan Salvatore. Although she has a loving and supportive boyfriend named Matt, that doesn’t keep Elena from persuing her newest love interest. Even more, she goes to great lengths to even get Stefan’s attention, like making her best friends swear in blood that they will not try to take him away. Like that isn’t enough teenage drama to fill an entire season of Gossip Girl, there are some strange things happening in Fell’s church as well. Corpses with bites on their throats, weird changes in the weather, and something – or someone – is following Elena. But like we expect from every stuck-up Homecoming Queen heroine, she is too occupied with seducing her newest love interest to even notice or care. That is, until Stefan himself gets framed for the murders. In The Struggle, Elena finally discovers that the person who has practically been stalking her the last couple of weeks, is none other than Damon Salvatore, Stefan’s brother. Although she only recently discovered about Stefan’s vegetarian vampire habits, and has been warned that Damon prefers the predatory lifestyle above the veggie one, that doesn’t ring enough bells to keep her away from the sexy and dangerous vampire. It’s the start of a love triangle with desastrous consequences for all the parties involved.

I have to admit that the only reason why I bought The Vampire Diaries novels in the first place, is because I’m hooked on the television series. Little did I know that the novels themselves would be rather dissapointing. I don’t care how many times The New York Times or another major newsletter or media outlet says The Vampire Diaries is one of the best young adult paranormal fiction novels; because in my opinion, they’re not. Not at all.

I can’t begin to explain to you how much I despise the character of Elena Gilbert. She is egocentric, selfish, spoiled, annoying, self-absorbed, unreliable, and most possibly the worst friend ever. Golden girl, Homecoming Queen, I don’t care how many titles L.J Smith gives her; if I ever met someone like Elena in real life, I’d make her tumble down the stairs. Seriously. She reminded me a lot of that movie Mean Girls, and how she has even friends in the first place, is a mystery to me. That’s not to say that the friendships in these novels are all that realistic. They aren’t. You might as well switch Elena’s friend with wax dolls, and you’d get the exact same novel. Whereas Elena still has some personality – although not necessarily the most desirable personality in the world – her friends have absolutely none.

Meredith seems to know everything that is going on, before someone even tells her. She is headstrong, stubborn and highly intelligent – a person one can depend on through everything. Alright…so what the hell is she doing with Miss Stuck-Up Bitch 1990? You would think that a person with a personality like the one just described should easily be either the main character of a novel themselves, or at least not get along with Miss I-Ditch-My-Boyfriend-For-A-Guy-I-Don’t-Know. I know that a lot of other reviewers complimented Meredith’s personality, but to me she seemed just as flat and boring like Elena. But fear not, dear readers, because Bonnie is even worse. Because Bonnie’s only purpose in this novel is to sit around, give unasked for comments, and be scared. She literally spend 95 percent of this novel being scared, telling others she is scared, or not knowing what the heck is going on. And not only that, but she thinks it’s “romantic” to die young, and she continuously becomes acquainted with the wrong people, like Alaric and Damon. To top it all of, her only actual personality trait is the fact that she’s cute and small. Except those aren’t personality traits. We could switch her for a cute and small cardboard figurine and no one would notice.

No, I’m not done yet. Stefan is another flat, emotionless character. Sure he has emotions – he even cries somewhere in this novel, which made me go all “yeck” “ew” “what the heck?” and “be a VAMPIRE, for crying out loud!” – but they are out of place, unrealistic and way over the top. I actually felt sorry for the guy halfway through The Awakening because I wondered how one can live over two centures and thus hopefully gain at least some wisdom over the years, and then still be stupid enough not to see through Elena Gilbert’s “innocent girl” disguise and see her for who she really is. Sure, she may have resembled Katherine in looks, but boy, she resembles her in personality as well! Katherine was arrogant enough to think she could have two men at the same time, whereas Elena is arrogant enough to think she can have the whole school doing her every bidding, and have two centuries-old vampires swoon over her as well. No, in fact, whereas everyone towards the ending of The Struggle starts mentioning Katherine’s weak and childish personality, I was all thinking: and yet she’s one hundred times better than Elena. Even though they’ve lived since Renaissance Italy, Damon and Stefan still have a lot to learn about women. In particularly that, even though a girl may resemble your kind-hearted, loving and pretty much dead ex-girlfriend in looks, that does not always count for her personality.

The only really interesting character in these two novels, was Damon. He does the mysterious, dangerous and undeniably sexy vampire act with a grace and charm that is very persuading. I may have been a bit biased by the series (I’m a Team Damon fangirl, honestly) but this novel really made me even more convinced of my choice. Damon is the only character who has an actual, interesting and developing personality. I would choose him over Stefan in a heart beat. Can you imagine spending an eternal life with Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes-Veggie-Vampire who has nothing to offer apart from the fact that he’s a veggie vampire. He has no hobbies, no humorous personality, nothing that could actually persuade a girl to like him, except for his extraordinary good looks. Now I knew from the start how superficial Elena Gilbert is, but even she can’t think she’ll manage to spend eternity with a person whose only real purpose is to spread the religion of Veggie Vampirism all across the world. Damon on the other hand is clever, creative, strong, trustworthy, stubborn, determined and has more backbone than Stefan could even dream of. Team Damon all the way.

On the other hand, I do have to say there were some good points about these novels as well. For instance, I thought the storyline – once stripped off all the schoolgirl gossips, the ‘who gets who’ bitch fights, Elena’s rise to highschool stardom and her desperate tries to secude Stefan Salvatore, and all other stupidness aside – was actually pretty decent. This random guy arrives at school, and a schoolgirl feels immediately attracted to him, even though she doesn’t know anything about him. Weird things start happening, but at first she sees no connection. Then she discovers the boy is in fact a century-old vampire. But guess what? She resembles his long-deceased ex-girlfriend, and he starts dating her for that exact same reason (sure he says they’re not totally alike, but no one really buys that). Then he gets framed for the murders that have occured over the last couple of weeks, and no one believes him – except his love interest that is, who is perfectly sure he didn’t do it, although she only knows him for three or so weeks and has never even bothered to ask what he does in his spare time. Because you have to admit, vampires do have a lot of spare time to fill. But fear not, the storyline gets more interesting. Because Vampire-Wanna-Be-Veggie has an evil older brother, who happens to be even more sexy and dangerous and mysterious than him. The older brother makes an appearance, and goes for the ex-girlfriend look-a-like as well, because you know, a story is only decent when history repeats itself at least once. While she is occasionally kissing and making out with the Veggie-Brother, the girl in our story also makes secret arrangements with the Non-Veggie-Brother. We all know that’s not going to end well, but to top all things off, an evil force is chasing the girl as well. Welcome to Fell’s Church.

The description might have sounded a bit sarcastic, but I did enjoy the storyline. I thought it was original, especially considering the time frame when this novel was written. The only downside with the storyline is that in The Awakening, L.J. Smith was still focusing too much on the highschool part of the series, with teenage girl bitch fights and gossip, and she only seemed to realise she was actually writing a paranormal romance story at the beginning of The Struggle. So, in all honesty, The Struggle is a far more better book than The Awakening.

On the other hand, L.J. Smith’s writing style made me want to rip my hair out occasionally. Some of her descriptions make no sense whatsoever, I’m pretty sure she nearly raped the English language a couple of times, and her phrasing made me want to bang my head on my desk on several occasions. Somehow, I’m confident that she doesn’t have an English major, or took any writing classes before she started this series.

I feel like I should end this on a good tone, because I did enjoy parts of the novel. Sure, the writing was horrible, the story predictable, and the characters flat and personality-less but…Damon makes up for a lot of that. No to mention that this was one of the first novels focusing on paranormal romance back in the day, and it certainly deserves credit for trying. At this point, I like the television series a lot more – characters have actual personalities there *gasp* – but I have to admit, the television series started off with a rocky start as well, and only became really interesting and well-written near the end of Season One. So maybe I have to give the novel series the benefit of the doubt as well – and I will. I do recommend reading this series, especially if you’re a fan of the television series; simply because it’s something every fan should do, and because it is one of the first well-known novels in the genre. It’s practically like reading a classic.


  1. Lots of good teasers! I have not read any books in this series yet, but they’re definitely on my list! Thank you for sharing!

  2. These were my favourite books. I don’t know if I like them most because they were the first, but the story brought something new and interesting. Of course of these books I liked Damon the most. Like you wrote in the review : Team Damon all the way!

  3. Never read the books, but the character’s names are awesome.
    I’ll get to read them, someday.

  4. What a great review! And now I’m really curious about the tv series and I want to read the books to see if I’m going to hate Elena just like you lol

  5. Eliza rogers says

    Best review of The Awakening and The Struggle I’ve read so far. And so lenghty 😉

  6. I’m Team Damon in both the books and the tv show too 🙂 I read this series back in the 90s, so I don’t know what I’d think of it now. I liked it a lot back then (totally agreed with you about the main three: Team Damon, didn’t like Elana much, BORED by Stefan), but I much preferred her other series.

  7. I read these books quite a while ago, and though I really liked them at the time, I like the TV show better. Maybe because it’s a little more… modern and realistic. And I also didn’t like the Elena from the books; just like you said, she’s too egocentric, selfish, spoiled, annoying, self-absorbed, unreliable. Homecoming Queen or not, she probably wouldn’t be a girl I’d hang out with in real life. I liked the way she developed throughout the series, but I still prefer Elena from the show. I wish we had Meredith here too…
    Oh, and Team Damon all the way! He’s the most interesting character both in the books and in the show.:D

  8. Great review! You write with such care for detail, and it’s obvious you put a lot of work into it!
    I wasn’t all that fond of The Awakening, and I have to admit that I liked The Struggle a whole lot more. Nevertheless, both of these novels were my least favorite ones in the series, Shadow Souls being my favorite.

  9. as many other people, I knew the series first as well. when I read the first book, it was so weird, that Elena was… well, different. In the series I love her so much (and everybody else does too), and in the books she is such a b*tch sometimes :S but it’s just a matter of time to adjust to the books, and after that they’re as enjoyable as the series^^

  10. does this book “the awakening and the struggle” contains the hole books?
    Because it only has 416 pages and the books each one have in the minium 400 pages
    I hope someone can answer me
    Thanks guys


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