Vampire Diaries #1: The Awakening

The Awakening - L.J. Smith I normally summarise books before reviewing them, a brief synopsis. I can’t do it with this one, it just devolves into sarcasm every time I try.Anyone who has read Fangs for the Fantasy for any length of time will know we have something of a love/hate relationship with The Vampire Diaries TV show and are frequent critics. Well, let me take this opportunity to say something good about the TV show and its writers – I am impressed, no, amazed – that you managed to extract anything even semi-redeemable from this book. I thought pulling the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series from that awful film was impressive, but this is downright miraculous. With book reviewing there’s always a strong element of the subjective, though I have to say, in the past I have been bemused that some people can be such fans of things I’ve hated. This book doesn’t leave me bemused, it leaves me wanting to hold its fans, comfort them and assure them that they’re good people and don’t need to punish themselves like this.So why do I hate this book? Let me count the ways!First and foremost is Elena herself, one of the most unpleasant protagonists you’ll ever have the displeasure to meet. And this is from someone who has read Twilight, Sookie Stackhouse and even The Aurora Teagarden Series (previous candidate for “protagonist we’d most like to chop up and bury under the rockery” prize). You know those YA novels with the ridiculously over-the-top popular mean girls, the Satan Cheerleaders? That’s Elena! I can’t imagine how anyone is supposed to sympathise with this girl. She’s unbelievably selfish and self-absorbed – everything is about her. People who aren’t her friends fawn after her (especially if they’re “plain”) and are treated like servants, she just dishes out orders and expects to be obeyed. Her 2 friends Bonnie (who is characterised by having woo-woo) and Meredith (who isn’t characterised at all) and her ex Matt (the one person who accuses Elena of being a self-centred manipulator, then apologises when her lip starts wobbling and the waterworks begin) exist to serve. Matt goes to the prom with her knowing she’s stalking Stefan, Bonnie and Meredith abandon their dates to go find Elena, everything they do is about Elena. They have no independent purpose in life – they serve Elena and she expects them to.The way Elena treats her friends is appalling. Not just the servants she deems unworthy of friendship (though those are servants – and flirting with a boy even while his girlfriend watches in tears? Totally ok), but Bonnie and Meredith as well. After the second or possibly third attempt to stalk an unwilling Stefan, they both suggest that maybe, just maybe she might want to let it go – to which she loses her ever loving shit and storms off telling them both she’ll find new best friends (and they still follow her! Aaargh!) The way she speaks to them is appalling, it really sounds more like a boss to employees they don’t like very much. And Matt? When she breaks up with him she tells him what he feels (because it’s easier for her to pretend he doesn’t care) and then uses her ex as a servant to help her snare her new man. And then is actually jealous of him because of his friendship with Stefan. She had a friend, Caroline, who has turned into someone I’m supposed to hate, I guess, and stopped fawning after Elena but I want to cheer her on. Go Caroline, escape the terrible Elena servitude. Of course, Elena doesn’t care WHY her friend is angry and forgets about her for weeks on end, focusing on Her Man She Will Claim. And it’s not just friends – with someone in town attacking young people, Aunt Judith is often worried about Elena. Does Elena care? Not a jot! Judith’s worries are brushed aside with contempt – she stays out until 2:00am without calling and when Judith is upset it’s a side reference at best.And her approach to the romance? Now, I’m the first to say I find the whole “eyes crossed across a crowded room we now love each other forever let’s find a chapel” story annoying. But Elena? Elena fixates on Stefan because he doesn’t fall in love and worship her. He walks past her without falling for her supreme beauty. Oh how dare he, how very dare he! She goes into SHOCK because he didn’t fall down before her. She tears up when he isn’t instantly hers. She then decides that this man MUST be hers no matter what. She invents a fictional boyfriend she met on holiday (leaving her ex to believe she cheated on him – but that’s a lesser being’s feelings, irrelevant!). When visiting Stefan’s home he asks he to stop going through his things, including a box, because they’re private. The very second she’s left alone? She goes through his private things. Of course she does. She comments frequently how lonely and isolated Stefan is – oh how sad – and then spreads fake rumours about him around school to drive other people away! She notices his loneliness and tries to make it worse so he will turn to her! Ye gods girl, what is wrong with you?! What does she do on her weekends, find sad puppies to kick? At this point, the fact she collects boyfriends as status symbols and thinks boys are all important as they show how popular and pretty you are (sentiments which would be interesting starting point for growth and challenge - if they were challenged, but they’re not. And it is interesting that she has a view of dating that we often see in misogynistic straight men – but we don’t really see why making the protagonist have similar dehumanising opinions to be somehow empowering) just adds more crap to this enormous heap.Read More