The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening (The Vampire Diaries #1)
by L. J. Smith
Reading level: YA
Elena Gilbert is the girl that every girl wants to be and that every boy wants to date. She's used to getting what she wants, too, so when a foreign student named Stefan Salvatore shows up at her school, she sets her sights on a new conquest.
But Stefan is hiding a dark secret about his past, a secret that could threaten the lives of those closest to Elena... and perhaps even Elena herself.
You'd have to have been living under a rock to not at least have heard of The Vampire Diaries, which has been turned into a television series. This good old-fashioned YA paranormal romance has been around in book form since 1991 with the release of The Awakening. For whatever reason, I never read the books back when they were released, even though I would have been about 14 and among the target audience. (That was probably during my reading dry spell in high school where I pretty much read only what was assigned.)
Reading The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening reminded me of why I got sucked into YA fiction in the first place. It was written in a time when a good grasp of grammar and punctuation was actually expected of authors (imagine that!), so when I was reading I could just enjoy the story and not get tripped up every second paragraph by some character who, somehow, sneezed their speech. Okay, so this is not a literary masterpiece by any means. There are some pretty corny bits and some of the speech is not that realistic. But I quite enjoyed The Awakening, and was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer.
There are a number of differences between the book and the TV series. In the book, Elena is a blue-eyed blonde with a preschool-aged sister who lives with her Aunt Judith and stepuncle-to-be (while those who've seen the TV series know that that Elena is a brown-eyed brunette with a teenage brother who lives with her curiously young Aunt Jenna). What's more striking, though, are the similarities to books such as Twilight. Elena is similar in some ways to Bella Swan, waxing poetic about wanting to spend eternity with a boy she's only just met (teenagers in paranormal fiction never seem to have any common sense or foresight, do they?). Stefan and Edward Cullen are likewise similar, in that they both have that self-loathing thing going on; however, Stefan's reasons for being that way make more sense to me.
The only thing I really didn't like about this book was that it had a cliffhanger ending. Actually, it wasn't even really an ending; it was more like the story just ended in the middle of the climax. I guess you have to keep reading to find out what happens next. I've got too much in my TBR pile to commit to reading the rest of the series right now, but I'm not going to rule it out in the future. As far as YA paranormal fiction goes, this book was pretty good. I just wish I didn't have to go back almost two decades to find something that has half-decent writing (technically speaking).
Overall: 3.71 out of 5