Warning: This Is NOT How Boys Work
I was originally planning to get The Vampire Diaries out of the way in one gigantic, OMGwhyamIevendoingthis gulp. Then I got started, and realised my review was getting so enormously long that I was going to have to it in chunks. Okay, I thought. Five chapters at a time. That’s do-able.
Then I got to Chapter Six, and it all got a little out of hand.
There are so many books I’ve read recently that I adored, and can’t wait to tell you about at great length. I don’t want the “Reviews” strand of my blog to turn into a massive exercise in snarkiness. But I hate leaving projects unfinished, and damn it, pulling The Vampire Diaries to pieces is just so much fun to do! So maybe there’s maybe room for just a little bit of snarkiness. Just once a week or so, in among the other stuff.
Maybe I should pick a specific day for it. Undead Tuesdays, or something…
Anyway, what I’m saying is; I think we’re going to have to go to a post per chapter to get through it all. Sorry about that. There will be other stuff as well. But once you’ve heard the siren call of the Immortal Undead, there’s no way back for any of us.
We open on Elena, writing in her diary, speculating about that guy who had his blood drained out of him the other week (I do love that strange blindness all inhabitants of Vampire fiction are required to practice in order to avoid noticing that they’re, like, surrounded by vampires and stuff) and completely losing her shit over Stefan. Apparently this one time, in History class, he was totally staring at her – sitting sideways in his chair to do it and everything! – and oh, Dear Diary, do you think this means he might be interested in me? Seriously, if I didn’t hate Elena so much I might actually feel sorry for her.
Ah, you know what? I kind of feel sorry for her anyway. It’s hard not to pity someone who regards sending herself red roses from a made-up Frenchman as 1) normal 2) worthwhile or 3) ensuring that “my social position’s secure”.
On the other hand – waaaay over-invested in Stefan. He is, apparently, unlike any other boy she’s ever known. Okay, on the one hand, he is a soul-less member of the Immortal Undead, so on some level he probably is unlike any other boy she’s ever known. On the other hand, her evidence for Stefan being unlike any other boy seem a little thin:
Reasons Why Stefan Is Unlike Any Other Boy Elena Has Ever Known
1. He is on the football team. Clearly a freak, then.
2. He doesn’t hang around much with any of the guys apart from Matt. Or, as I would like to phrase it, “since arriving in town precisely twenty-two days ago, has already made one good friend.”
3. He doesn’t hang around with any of the girls either. Yes, every teenage boy I ever knew simply loved to spend hours of his day talking to girls about girl stuff and – oh wait, hang on a minute.
4. He doesn’t go to the cafeteria.
5. He doesn’t go to the coffee shop. Better call the FBI, Flopsy, I think we’ve got a live one on our hands.
Elena finishes with the following delightful thought: “How can I ever get him somewhere he can’t get away from me?”
Just for a minute, let’s imagine a boy expressing this sentiment. JUST SAYING.
Next up, we’re back at Fell’s Church High School for the Matt and Elena show, in which we get to enjoy what is surely the world’s least unlikely conversation between a man and a woman, anywhere, at all, ever [note from the future: actually, I think I called this one a little early]. Elena belatedly realises that her I-was-shagging-a-Frenchman scheme may possibly have upset the guy who was at the time her actual flesh-and-blood boyfriend just a little tiny bit, and apologises to him. From this, Matt instantly divines that Mr Red Roses was made up, and furthermore, that he was only made up because Elena was so upset about Stefan not liking her after she’d known about his existence for a whole thirty-eight minutes.
I can just about buy that Matt realised Elena had invented Monsieur l’Oignon for some strange, dysfunctional purpose of her own. But how he got from “She’s inventing all kinds of shit” to “because that noob didn’t want to count her eyelashes by the lockers” is beyond me. Maybe boys in Fell’s Church have some weird genetic mutation that makes them all ludicrously intuitive.
Or maybe – just maybe – the boys in this book are nothing at all like boys in real life. Your pick.
Anyway. It turns out we’re only just beginning to see the sublime heights of sensitive insight that Matt the Lapdog is capable of. According to Matt, Stefan seems to have put up this, like, wall around him? A wall that, like, no-one can get through? And Matt doesn’t think he’ll ever let anyone through the wall? Which is totes a shame and stuff? Because, like, behind that wall, he thinks that Stefan is, like, really really miserable? (To be fair to Smith, Matt doesn’t actually say any of this in a Valley-girl voice. But that’s how I heard it in my head.)
Find me one teenage boy who has ever given more than about five seconds’ thought to the emotional state of another boy. Just one. JUST ONE. Find me just one, send me the evidence and I’ll sell a God-damned kidney and give the proceeds to the charity of your choice.
One thing I will say for Elena; she likes to have a plan. Unlike Bella, who mostly just mopes around the place waiting for stuff to happen to her, Elena takes control of her destiny. Her latest foolproof scheme is that Matt will now help her, Elena, to get behind the wall? That wall that Stefan’s living behind? Because that would be, like, a really good thing to do and stuff? (Sorry, still not actually written in Valley-girl, but I just can’t help it.)
Unfortunately for Matt, this plan involves Matt being responsible for taking Stefan to the Homecoming Prom.
Here’s why this would never happen. With a few courageous and admirable exceptions, teenage boys – even the ones who are actually, irrefutably gay – are paranoid about looking gay. This shouldn’t be true. I hope that one day it will cease to be true. But right now, it is true.
Knowing this fact, even as we despise it – is Matt going to ask Stefan to the prom?
How This Conversation Should Actually Have Gone
Elena (distraught): Matt…I’m sorry!
Matt: About two-timing me with that French dude? So you should be!
Elena: I made him up.
Matt: Um…sorry, what?
Elena: Because I wanted Stefan to be interested in me.
Matt: You sent yourself red roses to make some dude you met three weeks ago want to date you? Are you for real?
Elena: He’s not like any guy I’ve ever known. Do you ever get the feeling that he’s put up this wall around him?
Matt [BACKING AWAY]: What? What wall? What the fuck are you talking about?
Elena: Please will you bring him with you to the Homecoming dance so I can try and get my freak on with him?
Matt: Never, ever speak to me again as long as I live.
But hey, this is Vampire fiction, folks! And in Vampire fiction, boys – the Undead ones, the Were-ones and even just the plain old ordinary ones – are as sensitive as all get out, and simply love running around after girls who have dumped them, then retrospectively cheated on them with a made-up Frenchman.
Maybe it’s best if I just walk away from this line of thought. In the next scene, it’s Prom Night, and Elena is being made beautiful by her minions, who clearly have nothing better to do with their evening than groom the Alpha Female. Somehow, whenever I read a scene like this, I always think of chimpanzees, so that’s how I’m picturing this scene: a nice, pretty chimpanzee girl in an ice-violet frock. Being groomed makes me feel all happy and relaxed, but Elena is mostly being grim, miserable and determined. In fact, she actually describes herself as (and I’m quoting here) “a very young soldier being sent to the front lines”.
Okay. This is YA fiction, and Young Adults are, by definition, young. This means they’re allowed to be immature, self-absorbed and melodramatic in all the wrong places. But the spoilt and beautiful Homecoming Queen comparing herself to “a very young soldier being sent to the front lines”, in a world where very young soldiers are actually being sent to the front lines?
Words fail me.
Oh, of course Elena’s the Homecoming Queen! Was there ever any doubt? And of course, this means she can have absolutely anything she wants, including a relationship with a boy who has basically no interest in her, because those are totally the rules when you’re Queen. Bonnie and Meredith said it, so it must be true. So, that’s nice. Then they go downstairs, and Elena’s aunt’s boyfriend Robert gives Elena a long and creepy stare, then announces that he has just realised that Elena is a form of Helen, as in Helen of Troy, and that’s who Elena reminds him of.
Compliments You Can Expect To Get From Your Aunt’s Boyfriend On Prom Night
1. “You look nice”
2. “That’s a nice frock”
3. “Those are nice flowers”
4. “That’s a nice thing you’ve got in your hair”
5. “I’m sure you’re going to have a very nice evening”
Compliments You Will Never Be Given By Your Aunt’s Boyfriend On Prom Night
1. Anything involving laboured allusions to doomed heroines from antiquity
Inexplicably, Stefan has accepted Matt’s shy invitation to Prom Night, and has come wearing his best cashmere sweater, and a wondrous black blazer, which is subtly different and more elegant to any other blazer ever worn by human boy before. Ms Meyer’s lawyers will please note the care with which Stefan has avoided the colour beige.
And then, the moment! Stefan asks Elena to dance! Because people tend to notice shit like two people standing deadly still and staring at each other for hours without moving, I’m assuming the amount of time this occupies in the narrative is about as long as you’d expect; i.e., a maximum of seven or eight seconds. However, it’s possibly the busiest seven or eight seconds of Elena’s life to date.
Things Elena Realises In The Time It Takes Stefan To Ask Her To Dance
1. she’s beautiful
2. She’s playing with either
a) fire or
b) something she doesn’t understand (I’m going to be generous and presume she’s capable of understanding Fire)
3. An instinct older than civilisation is prompting her to run
4. Surprisingly, this same instinct is also telling her to not run
5. This the most intense moment she’s ever experienced with a boy
6. Stefan’s eyes are green like oak-leaves in the summer
7. Stefan is having a good time
8. Stefan is somehow also not having a good time
9. Stefan looks as if he’s in pain (I sympathise)
10. Stefan’s eyes are going black with desire
11. Stefan is thinking about kissing her
12. Stefan is hypnotised by her beauty
Damn, this girl is good at realising and noticing! I’m exhausted just reading about it.
It’s probably a good thing for the emotional energy of everyone involved that at this point, Evil Caroline (remember her?) turns up and claims Stefan for her very, very own. Clearly, this breaks Elena’s heart, because obviously every word Caroline says is totes true and isn’t in any way designed to upset Elena and make her feel bad, because srsly, who would do that? – and, and, and –
Okay, I need to get over myself, because this is is just a trope of the genre, isn’t it? The 1739 Standardisation Of Romantic Tropes Act clearly states that in any ambiguous situation, all romantic heroes and heroines are required by law to look at the possible options, find the absolute worst explanation available for what they’ve just witnessed, and believe that one. As is traditional, Elena decides heal her shattered heart by dancing with every other boy who isn’t fast enough to run away from her, and then going off to the cemetery with some meathead called Tyler.
Ohhh, I can feel a rape-rescue scenario coming up here. [Note from the future: damn, I’m good.]
Best line of the chapter: “You only want everybody and everything revolving around Elena Gilbert.” Matt, for this brief but deadly moment of clarity, I salute you.
If you absolutely must, you can buy The Vampire Diaries from Amazon, here. But why would you want to do that? Instead, why not buy The Atheist’s Daughter, by the fabulous husband-and-wife team Renee Harrell? You can read my review here, and you might also like to swing by Renee Harrell’s blog at MarsNeedsWriters.com.