The Awakening by L. J. Smith

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Goodreads: The Awakening
Series: Vampire Diaries #1
Source: Library
Published: 1991


High school senior Elena Gilbert has it all–looks, popularity, even the star quarterback for a boyfriend.  But when she spots new student Stefan Salvatore, Elena knows he has to be hers.


[Plot Spoilers Below!  I do not hold back!]

I know several people who have enjoyed The Vampire Diaries TV show, but this book seems to be an entirely different creature.  Nothing happens in it.  The plot is literally that Elena Gilbert wants Stefan Salvatore and she’s willing to do anything it takes to get him–treat her friends like dirt, ignore her studies, act like a lunatic in front of the school, run around with him in the dark while her aunt stays up worrying she’s been murdered.  She even makes her friends take a blood oath with her, swearing they’ll do whatever she tells them to do in pursuit of this mysterious new student.  Because she has to have him–“even if it kills her.  Even if it kills him.”  The cover might tell you something about an evil brother and a girl torn between two vampires, but honestly most of that is irrelevant at this point in the series.

Fortunately, the book is so bad that in some weird, twisted way it’s almost good.  It was written in the early 90s, but has all the standard YA cliches. Elena is blonde, beautiful, popular, self-absorbed, entitled and vapid.  Yet she still ends up in a love triangle with two vampires willing to fight for her.  (Note she doesn’t get a choice–they will decide who owns her.)  It’s full of cliched writing and overwrought prose.  It’s filled with descriptions of Elena’s looks (amusingly told from her perspective so we get lines about how “Elena knew she looked [filled in the blank]”–even if that means Elena knew she looked like an ice goddess with softly parted lips and a soft, curved neck or whatever.  (Who thinks about their neck?!)  And we get detailed descriptions of all the outfits, including the custom-made Venetian silk Italian Renaissance dress that this high school student will wear ONE TIME for Halloween.  I guess her family’s rolling in wealth?  She’s using up the inheritance she received from her dead parents?  It’s never explained.

Best of all, vampires can read minds, but Elena’s stands out from the rest for its golden light or something.  And she just so happens to look almost exactly like Katherine, the girl Stefan and his evil brother both loved in their past lives!  Except, you know, she’s not soft like Katherine.  She’s a “tigress” and has fire and steel, etc., etc.  We have no evidence of this strength unless you count her obsession with running men down like prey, but who are we to argue with what the narrator tells us?

There are precious moments, like the opening scene where Elena meets a crow who stares at her the way the boys do when she’s wearing a sheer top or a bathing suit, like he’s “undressing her with his eyes.”  You got that right.  A crow.  There’s the line where Elena describes boys as puppies–“adorable but expendable.”  The part where she breaks up with her boyfriend, hurts him by spreading a rumor she was cheating on him, then somehow enlists him to help her get Stefan for her new boyfriend.  He says she’s selfish but does it anyway.  Okay…And, of course, the necessary scene in the graveyard where Elena and her friends feel an evil presence and run stumbling through the dark for the bridge, the bridge that Elena just miraculously knows will save them for whatever reason.

All this culminates in Stefan and Elena randomly meeting one day then automatically falling in love and making out and now they are just the ONE TRUE COUPLE, y’all.  Except Elena can’t figure out why he’s so distant.  She told him she loved him the third time they ever spoke, right?  Why doesn’t he let down all his emotional barriers to this girl he barely knows and who is frankly scarily obsessed with him?  I mean, after you make out with a person and you know they are THE ONE, you just are obligated to tell them every single thing about you.  What’s so hard for Stefan to understand about that?  Now, thanks to his bad attitude, she has to rifle through his secret possessions (the ones he specifically asked her not to touch) to figure out who he is because for some reason he just doesn’t trust her!

Luckily, shortly after this, Elena will learn Stefan is a vampire and will tell him that she wants him to suck her blood so they can have a real bonding experience.  (So, basically she wants to have sex except in this world it’s blood sucking instead because I guess that’s more socially acceptable behavior for a teenager and her much older boyfriend to engage in.  Nice how how vampire books get around that problem.)  He’s really upset about this because one doesn’t just go around sucking other people’s blood willy nilly–what if he can’t stop, what if he hurts her?  But Elena assures him that she knows all about it, better than he the vampire does, and they should go for it.  Because who wants barriers and safety and caution?  Not Elena.  Stefan, after like 30 seconds of doubt, gives in.  Because being safe is so unromantic, am I right?

And then vaguely important stuff happens and the book ends in the middle of a scene and calls it a cliffhanger.  Hurray?

I have to admit, this book is hilarious, even if not intentionally so.  But will I be spending time on the rest of the series?  That’s highly unlikely–even the supposed cliffhanger isn’t going to convince me I need more of Elena in my life.

2 starsKrysta 64

8 thoughts on “The Awakening by L. J. Smith

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I read that because Smith wasn’t hired to do the rest she now writes fanfiction of the series? It seems so bizarre to me that if your series is popular you would change authors.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

        It’s because the idea for the books was presented to Smith by Alloy Entertainment and they paid her to come up with the story but technically they own The Vampire Diaries, which is why they’re also credited on the TV show.


        • Krysta says:

          True, but I guess if Smith’s books were selling all right I’d keep her if she was interested. It just seems like a nice thing to do and a way to recognize her for her previous work. I guess businesses don’t always run on niceness, though. :/

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Geraldine @ Corralling Books says:

    Definitely agree with your review. I found this book really hard to get through – and I attempted the sequels, but they’re just so convoluted.
    It didn’t help that I read them after watching some episodes of the TV show and had high expectations haha 😂


    • Krysta says:

      I wonder how different it would have been to read these when they first came out. Now it seems really trope-y, but vampire books weren’t quite so popular in the early ’90s.

      I actually read this because I heard the TV show was good. Little did I realize they are apparently very different!


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