The Vampire Diaries and the Elena, Stefan, Damon love triangle were staples in my television programming for eight seasons. In full transparency, I didn’t give the show much thought when it first began to air, assuming it was Twilight for television. Little did I know the series was far from the initial Twilight vibes it had given me. My introduction to the series came in 2011. While preparing to film a location video for Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, I realized that The Vampire Diaries and Halloween 2 were both filmed in Covington, Georgia, and while traveling to the quaint town, I figured why not cover both productions within the video. Cut to a binge-watching session that covered three seasons, ultimately leading to an incomparable love for the series and its two sequel series predecessors, The Originals and Legacies. Naturally, reading the book series that inspired the television show was inevitable; however, I was slightly apprehensive. Would it live up to my expectations? How dated would the novels be? And would the differences aggravate me? There was only one way to find out.
Published September 1, 1991, Volume One, titled The Awakening, introduces the world to Elena Gilbert and her friends at the start of their senior year at Robert E. Lee High School. Elena is presented as a cliché vapid mean girl who, for sport, is manipulative and self-centered. When the new guy Stefan Salvatore enrolls at Robert E. Lee High School, she sets her sights on becoming the object of his affection. Stefan is drawn to Elena; however, he tries to fight his gravitational pull toward her. Stefan is seen as mysterious and alluring himself; however, the students at Robert E. Lee High School have no idea that being a vampire who lived through the Italian Renaissance plays a huge part in his mystique. Stefan is also being hunted by Damon, his more dangerous brother, who is seeking to cause Stefan pain and torment. Damon doesn’t appear much in the novel; however, a crow lingers around, watching and stalking the town’s teenagers.
Among Elena’s core group of girlfriends is Bonnie, a psychic; Meredith, who is a human, very much in the same vein as Caroline from the show, Caroline who is more of a frenemy who thrives off being competitive with Elena, Matt; Elena’s ex-boyfriend, and Tyler Smallwood who is entitled stereotypical jock who gets off on being a complete sociopath.
While the book sets the same tone and atmosphere, there are several major differences regarding the novel’s setting. The television series Mystic Falls is the home of this cast of characters. In the novel, the name of the town is Fell’s Church. That said, Fell’s Church does play a pivotal part in the television series. Presented as an actual church, Fells Church once belonged to one of the town’s founding families, the Fell’s. That is until the townspeople torched the church to rid the town of a legion of vampires; however, they were unaware that a spell had been placed on the vampires to protect them while also imprisoning them. In the television universe, The Founding Families play pivotal roles within the show; however, there is no mention of any of the founding families in the novel. It’s important to note that while each character embodies the spirit of their television counterparts, they and their dynamics are vastly different. This intrigued me because it presents somewhat of a mystery between characters that are already familiar to me. To name a few key differences, Stefan and Matt are good friends within the novel’s universe thus far. Matt is welcoming to Stefan and encourages him to join the football team. Vickie Bennett is also introduced to the reader; however, in the original material, she and Matt are not related, and instead of dating Tyler, she is dating Tyler’s best friend, Dick Carter, whose name is absolutely fitting. Jeremy, Elena’s younger brother/cousin is absent from the group of friends. Instead, we are introduced to Margaret Gilbert, Elena’s younger sister, and Aunt Jenna is now Aunt Judith. Both Klaus and Katherine make appearances in the novel in flashback scenes, and what I found amusing was the description of Katherine being kind and gentle. I think this will change as the stories progress; however, she is currently believed to be dead as she supposedly tied herself to a tree burning in the sunlight. In the novel, Katherine is also not Elena’s doppelganger; however, they favor one another.
The Salvatores are interesting characters. Brother vampires have a bitter rivalry due to the influences of Kathrine the vampire that sired the two brothers. Surprisingly Kathrine is said to be kind; however, she is believed to be dead, apparently killed by tying herself to a tree after she gave blood to both brothers. I have my doubts. This is The Vampire Diaries, after all. Another quasi-similarity regarding the brothers, particularly Stefan, is the boarding house where he resides. In the television series, the boarding house belongs to his family, is operated by Zach Salvatore. In the novel, the boardinghouse is the home of an elderly lady named Mrs. Flowers. As of now, she’s not mentioned to be related to Salvatore, but I’m suspicious of her.
One of the novel’s most terrifying and unexpected scenes occurs after the Homecoming Dance. After being crowned Homecoming Queen, Elena approaches Stefan hoping to gain his attention; however, Caroline, her frenemy, sabotages all efforts. Annoyed, Elena leaves the dance with Tyler, Dick, and Vickie and goes to the Fell’s Church cemetery. After defacing several statues, both Dick and Vickie separate from Elena and Tyler, who then sexually assault Elena. I understand this book was written in the 90s; however, this story element needs to be retired. Mysteriously Stefan appears out of nowhere, saving Elena, and attacks Tyler.
The climax and conclusion of the novel take place at Robert E. Lee High School’s Halloween Haunted house, where many things happen. Like on the television show, Mr. Tanner is the history teacher and football coach. He is assigned to work at the Haunted House, playing the role of a bloody corpse to frighten visitors. While guiding a group through the maze of spookiness, Bonnie realizes that Mr. Tanner isn’t acting. He has actually been murdered and left on display for the public to witness his mutilation. Stefan, who had been experiencing fugue-like states, questions if he was the one to do it and flees from the school. Elena tracks Stefan to the roof of the boarding house, where she learns of Stefan’s dark past and secret. This encounter is a turning point for Stefan and Elena as we see depth and growth in her character. She’s no longer the shallow vapid girl we were introduced to; now, she’s more complex and kindhearted. The two even share a bonding moment as Elena allows Stefan to drink her blood so that the two can become closer, which I personally find weird, but this is a young adult vampire story. We also become privy to the fact that Katherine sired the Salvatores and wanted them to become her lovers. The brothers, however, demanded that she choose between them, which resulted in Katherine’s ashes being found next to a tree in the garden. Again, I’m skeptical.
Like the television series, the novel ends on a cliffhanger, leaving the reader with a heavy heart and pondering what’s to come. After having a somewhat touching moment with Elena, Stefan confronts his brother Damon, who has remained in the shadows for most of the novel. After their confrontation, which the reader doesn’t fully experience, Stefan goes missing, and fearlessly Elena confronts the evil Salvatore’s brother to find Stefan. The question is… what will it take for her to find him?
Reading The Vampire Diaries was a pleasant experience, which was surprising. I found the novel to be a compelling and quick read. The only qualm I have with the novel is the lack of diversity within its cast of characters; however, because I am so familiar with the lore of the show and the performers who brought said characters to life, it wasn’t hard to envision them within the novel. Overall, this was a solid read. Now to continue reading the series and make an epic video visiting the filming locations while discussing the differences between the books and the series. Speaking of the background photo featured here was taken in Covington, Georgia, at the filming location for the Mystic Grill. Earlier this year, my sisters and I traveled to Mystic Falls to have dinner before the Billie Eilish concert. They can be spotted in the background. Note… the food was absolutely delicious.