65 points, 3 ½ stars
Warning: Major Cliffhanger (So big this can’t even be considered a full story)
Warning: Love triangle within a love triangle within a love triangle
Elena Gilbert knows something bad is about to happen but she doesn’t know what. Then she meets the new boy in school, and is determined to have him. Stefan Salvatore is determined to avoid Elena at any cost, because she looks like the young woman that changed him from human to vampire. He can’t risk the pain of losing another that he may love, especially since he thinks he is having blackouts and nearly killing the townspeople.
“Right now everything looks so strange to me, as if I don’t belong here. It’s me that’s out of place. And the worst thing is that I feel there’s somewhere I do belong, but I just can’t find it.”
Years and years and years ago now, I read the first five books of the Vampire Diaries (the original quadrilogy and the first of the “new” (at the time) trilogy). I remember it much the same as I just read it. This is less a testament to my ability to remember what I read 10 years ago, than the fact that this is a very short book that doesn’t actually have a lot that happens in it. I’ve had some rotten luck with young adult, lately, so this was also surprisingly readable, especially considering what I remembered of the series.
Mostly, The Awakening is the story of a selfish, popular teenage girl who falls in love instantly with a vampire who seems to hate himself, and is determined that he will be hers. There is a lot more to it than that, but it is all on the romance side of things.
See, this isn’t just a simple she likes him, he likes her romance. This is a love triangle within a love triangle with a love triangle within a…? Elena likes Matt but breaks up with him even though he still loves her, and then she finds she loves Stefan, who is still hung up on his own teenage lover Katherine who died. Then Stefan’s brother, Damon, comes around and boy is he pretty and hit all the right buttons for her, even though it is unclear whether Damon likes her or wants her because Stefan has her. Stefan also likes Elena instantly, which is just weird because apparently she looks enough like Katherine that she doesn’t even realise a picture of Katherine isn’t her. Which isn’t even the only tangle in this mess. Stefan and Katherine and Stefan’s brother, Damon, are involved in just a regular old love triangle. Well, at least it is a love triangle that ends in murder. Double murder. …Triple murder? Hard to tell really.
Elena is one of those characters that is so utterly selfish, others around her don’t realise she is being selfish because they’re so used to her acting that way. She is so self absorbed, so magnetic a personality, so who everyone looks up to, that they are all completely willing to go along with anything Elena wants. She is so selfish that everyone around her feels sorry and blames themselves when they aren’t able to fulfil Elena’s whims. Her personality boils down to “me me me” and “Oh my I’m so popular everyone loves me! Why wouldn’t anyone love me?”. I really, really hope Elena grows as a character. As a side note: why was I so willing to like her by the end of the book? She has such a big personality, I was nearly drawn in to her orbit by her presence in the story, despite being able to see through her.
It must be said that Elena is absolutely determined to “win” Stefan by any means necessary. She is obsessed nearly to the point of ruin with this. In her own words: she can’t eat, she can’t sleep, she can’t focus on anything except her plans to win him. This is not a healthy relationship. This is not a healthy response to being turned down. If this were a guy being this obsessed with “winning” a female, the tables would be turned on him. It wouldn’t be cute anymore. It would be creepy and wrong.
Creepy and wrong seems to be the theme of The Awakening. Not only is the romance really creepy, but the way they get together is, too. You know what finally got these two to even talk to each other, not just look at each other across the school hallways? Some other boy tried to rape Elena, and Stefan had to save her from him. Yup, Smith actually wrote an attempted rape scene to bring two people together. And about 10 minutes after it happened, Elena is throwing herself at Stefan and kissing him.
This book isn’t only from Elena’s perspective, as much as it sounds. She is the primary perspective, certainly. Yet, a solid portion of the book is also written from Stefan’s perspective. Most of it is flashbacks about Stefan’s past. Specifically, it is the story of how Stefan and his brother got changed into vampires. We see a lot of Katherine – and it doesn’t paint her in a good light. While Stefan and Damon are so adamant that Katherine and Elena are totally different, all I see are similarities in the way they act. Even if I didn’t know the general gist of where this were going, I’d have some bad feelings right about now.
Part of Stefan’s perspective is also about Damon. Specifically, how Damon always gets his way over Stefan. Damon has driven Stefan out of every place Stefan has managed to find for himself. It is happening again. This time will be different, though. This time Stefan has something to fight for. The gaslighting was a nice, if really creepy and horrifying, touch, though. I won’t say too much on that because it is a bit spoilery.
The end, as I said in the warning, wasn’t really the end. The Awakening is definitely just the first part of the story. This isn’t a complete story by any means. It is frustrating how nothing finished at all, that it just ended basically in the middle of a thought.