Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle by L. J. Smith (Book #2)

February 15, 2012 § 3 Comments

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The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle picks up where The Awakening’s cliffhanger ending left off. Elena Gilbert stands alone in the old cemetery and shouts into the raging wind to summon the frightening force that has been stalking her. Stefan, the repentant vampire boy she is crazy about, has disappeared, and Elena knows who is responsible: Damon, Stefan’s cool, cruel older brother with a serious ax to grind. When Damon shows up in all his dark and menacing glory, he makes his intentions to Elena clear—let him turn her and come with him forever, or her friends will pay the price. And forget about Stefan, because Damon killed him.

Always one to follow her own instincts, which tell her that Damon is bluffing, Elena confides in her two best friends, Bonnie and Meredith, to help her find Stefan. The perilous search for the hurt and captive boy is only the beginning of Elena’s problems. Someone has stolen her diary and is publicly posting very private passages from it at school, not only to taunt her but to show her that her own words will be used to incriminate Stefan in a town murder, a murder that Elena knows Damon committed. In an unnerving turn, one of the girls who had been attacked in the old church on Homecoming night appears to be slowly going mad. Damon preys on Elena, draining her strength and weakening her defenses. Elena races and stumbles from one nightmarish situation to the next up until the story’s frightening conclusion.

The storyline and conflicts in The Struggle are more complex than those in The Awakening. Elena is trying to save her boyfriend from his self-destructive wrath towards his brother Damon as much as she is trying to keep him from Damon’s vengeance. She is endeavoring to derail a plot to frame and persecute Stefan for murder at the same time that she is trying to protect her friends and family from Damon’s deadly obsession with her. Putting the safety of those around her above her own is the dominant theme in Elena’s struggle, and it is that very trait that pulls her deeper and deeper into trouble. The pacing in this book is different from the first, without the foreshadowing that I loved so much in the first book. Instead, unexpected and vividly disturbing events draw the reader forward. It is also in this book that the protective bond between Elena and her friends is strengthened:

I should go out there, Elena thought. It’s me he wants, not them. He said as much. I should go out there and face him, and maybe he’ll let Bonnie and Meredith leave. But the fiery rage that had sustained her that morning was in ashes now. With all her strength of will, she could not make her hand let go of Bonnie’s, could not tear herself away.

The Struggle does not let down after The Awakening. It plunges Elena deeper into the horror, forcing her to use her independent mind and courage to go it alone. She is also starting to face the opposing desires within her that rise to the surface as she battles Damon, the one she can least afford to reveal conflict and vulnerability to. Damon can harm her, but Elena herself may prove just as powerful in her own undoing.

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