Vampire Diaries: the series that kept going and going…
I was probably 12 years old when I read the “Vampire Diaries” series for the first time. The vampire love triangle with a human girl captivated my love for the supernatural as well as my penchant for romance. And I would read those books as well as all others by her through the next 20 years. It doesn’t matter that I am now a woman in my 30s. When I get the desire, I turn to the “Vampire Diaries,” the pages by now so worn, I eventually had to buy new copies.
Then Lisa Jane Smith returned on the scene after leaving her cult following of fans waiting on the last book in a series called the “Night World.” There were forums dedicated to her disappearance: I know, I used to scout them in hopes of gleaning some information on the long-awaited “Strange Fate.” A decade or so later, she returned, and much to her fans wonderment, we heard the CW was adopting the “Vampire Diaries” for TV. And even more, Smith had added another installment to the series that I’m sure most of her fans had thought was done.
I admit to some embarrassment, I couldn’t contain my excitement upon seeing the “Vampire Diaries The Return: Nightfall” at Borders one day. Don’t all of us wish a good story could go on forever sometimes? But often, it’s better off done, with our picture of happily ever after in its place. When the next installment came out almost two decades after the first had been written, I couldn’t help myself but read them. And while I dove into the story, I quickly noticed inconsistencies. Maybe the tone was a little different, the storyline not what a dedicated fan would have expected. But after all, she had written the books almost two decades later. So I could forgive these subtle nuances. But I had a hard time getting past the sudden introduction of modern day technology. “Nightfall” takes place only a week after the last novel in the original four-book series leaves off. And yet everyone suddenly has a cell phone. What was so wrong with just keeping the story setting in the 1990s? That’s my first criticism.
My second criticism is the changing story line and how Elena, the main protagonist in the books, suddenly starts to shift her romantic loyalties from the noble Stefan to his bad boy vampire brother Damon. Throughout the second series, there are multiple instances where Elena and Damon share intimate moments. All this after she came back from the dead to be with Stefan in “Dark Reunion!” So now Elena is basically cheating on Stefan. It somehow puts a damper on the evolutionary steps Elena had made in the first four books from a selfish and popular teenager, to the girl who saves her town and becomes a compassionate and courageous heroine. She actually regresses in character points.
But for all my criticisms, I have loyally read each and every book that has come after. I am an L.J. Smith fan, and have been since I was 12 years old. So you can imagine the stages of grief I went through when I found out that her latest book, “The Phantom,” the newest installment in a Vampire Diaries trilogy called “The Hunters,” wasn’t even written by her. I’m not sure how it all went down, but from her blog entry notifying readers of the change, it doesn’t sound like Smith abdicated the Vampire Diary pen by choice. Meanwhile, Harper Books is still stamping her name on the series. Created by L.J. Smith is the key word here. It sounds to me like way back when she first wrote the books, she should have had a lawyer involved.
Even though the ghostwriter did a decent job of mimicking Smith’s style, it all just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. She probably should never have continued the series. But she should at least get to write it. I can’t even talk about how disturbed I was by the adaptions made to the TV show; I can’t even watch it. My hope is that at some point I’ll be able to separate the two and watch the show in its own right. In the meantime, I’ll continue to bitch about each new installment in the series. While in my heart, the story ended when Elena rose from the dead to return to her one, true love: Stefan. Even at 32, I’m still a supernatural addict and romantic.