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The Struggle Part 2: Beta-tested by Reader Sarah!

June 13, 2009

Hello, internets!  Greetings from Newton, North Carolina, home of not that much other than my beloved aunt and uncle, BUT next to a town that has retail everything, so my grandmother’s less-than-pleasant description of the place was totally off the mark.  We are ten minutes from a Barnes & Noble, so my daughter is pleased and wants to stay forever.  Yeah, she’s THAT easy to please.  However, we only have 36 hours in this hot-tubbed, TWO GUEST-BEDROOMED slice of relaxing heaven–my own ROOM! woo! adios, kid!–so I will, as promised, used some of this time to catch up on (ugh) The Struggle.

Ha.  Str-UGH-le.

When last we left Our Heroine, she was STRUGGLING against Damon, dastardly brother of the missing Stefan.  ~*Elena*~ finds herself in a light sweater in an early snow, but she’s so VALIANT and DETERMINED that she decides to go on a Stefan-hunt.

~*Elena*~ is positive that, in the way of all fictional soulmates, she would KNOW if Stefan were dead.  (I once had that feeling about someone.  Like, I woke up once with a stomach ache and knew it wasn’t mine.  Walked into the next room, asked, “Do you have a stomache ache?” “How did you know?”  But he was a total dick, so the whole “soulmate” thing was hilarious.  THIS guy?  REALLY, universe?  Also, I typed “stomache” instead of “stomach ache” at first and I think that will be the word in the future.  You know, like the future of all languages are to be condensed, like “ain’t”–it’ll be stom-ACHE.  It’s so obvious, I can’t believe this hasn’t happened before.)

Er, anyway, her clothes feel tissue-thin–how gratutious–and she’s totally catching pneumonia, but she doesn’t care, because Stefannnnnn.  Don’t forget, little tween girls, THE BOY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU.  YES, BY ALL MEANS, SACRIFICE YOUR LIFE FOR HIM.  YOUR LIFE IS NOTHING WITHOUT HIM ANYWAY.

Then she hits total delirium and tells herself Stefan will find HER.  She then lies down in the snow and almost DIES–how POETIC, if you’re Anne of Green Gables (but not a sane person)–until her practically-interchangeable friends come and get her.

Oh, and during this time she, like, SEES him but maybe not, I dunno.  Whatever.

Don’t worry, everyone, Meredith’s elegant eyebrows are here to save Our Heroine.  I forgot I was reading a whole new book and we have to go through the introductions.  Bonnie and Meredith are both size sixes with sun-streaked blonde hair and matching necklaces.  Wait, no.  Bonnie has red hair and pale pale skin and brown eyes and a heart-shaped face.  Meredith has elegant eyebrows and an olive complexion.  Is Meredith Latina?  Is that why she could date the only minority in the town?

Meredith also usually has “ironic” dark eyes.

“There was snow all over her, like a white fur coat.”  Of course.  Only the best snow for ~*Elena*~.

Winter is an unforgiving season, she thinks.  Of course.

Bonnie starts backseat mothering and ~*Elena*~ blows her off, because you can’t tell the best secrets because then you’re not as special anymore.  Meredith lets us know that “everyone” has been looking for her and “the whole school’s upset.”  I believe this, in a 90210 sort of way.

Aunt Judith is her usual pushover self.  She’s upset that ~*Elena*~ was gone, and upset that ~*Elena*~ was where the attacks happened, but she won’t actually, you know, PARENT ~*Elena*~.  Her fiance, Robert, takes that Manly Role of Voice of Reason (women can’t do that in here, I guess), but ~*Elena*~ starts freaking about how she has to dry herself and start looking again.  Instead of being rational and saying, “Look, I think someone’s setting Stefan up and he’s missing” she’s all “But he COULDN’T have done it, bawww” and I have always, ALWAYS heard that line in Scarlett O’Hara’s voice because it’s THAT annoying.

Aunt Judith “fusses” and whatnot, and then everyone calls to make sure the Princess is okay, and ~*Elena*~ STILL says nothing, not even to her friends.  Matt shows up in a parka, reiterating to the reader why Matt is the Second Choice Guy–well, maybe third.  Heroes don’t wear parkas.  Parkas aren’t sexy.  Poor Matt.  Blah blah “Stefan’s promise” blah blah ~*Elena*~’s bratty, blah blah, Matt’s a pushover and leaves in less than a full page.  ~*Elena*~ refuses to eat–AGAIN.  This is so unhealthy.  She also refuses to TALK.  God, why hasn’t anyone killed her.  Margaret, the lone tolerable character of the book, is used as a teddy bear for her needy, neglectful sister.

I hate you, ~*Elena*~.  I love you, Mags.

~*Elena*~ tries to plot to get out of the house, but Meredith totally thwarts her.  Robert joins in and they’ve got the exits blocked.  MAYBE IF SHE EXPLAINED *ANYTHING*, THEY’D HELP INSTEAD OF HINDER, BUT THAT WOULDN’T BE PLOTTY ENOUGH OR SOMETHING.  ~*Elena*~ puts on her kimono instead of running away.  She calls Bonnie & Meredith “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” and Bonnie, ever clueless, thinks she’s disoriented.  Heh.  Heh?  Well, maybe.

THEN MEREDITH LAYS THE SMACKDOWN ON ~*ELENA*~.  I MAY MAKE A GLEEFUL NOISE AT SOME POINT TONIGHT AFTER ALL!

…Actually, I went to bed.  I was so tired.  Then I was like, “Oh, let me work on The Stru–ooh, hot tub.”  So I took a copy of The Last Vampire: Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1 with me into the hot tub and I’ve been reading it on and off all day.  I started the second book a minute ago and it says says right there in the beginning that the main character is walking down Exposition Avenue.  This is truly of one the funniest things I’ve ever read, but I’m a sucker for the word “exposition.”  I didn’t know it–or didn’t remember learning it–until I was in my 20s, so maybe that’s why I love jokes about it so.  In Firesign Theater, there’s a joke about it.  I’m pretty sure there’s one in the Buffy musical too.

If only I could be as pleased about the exposition going on in Meredith’s smackdown.  It’s because, of course, it’s heavy-handed, like everything else in The Vampire Diaries.  In fact, I bet that if it weren’t for Smith going “OMG!  I just came up with the most clever way of doing exposition!”, Meredith wouldn’t have said anything to ~*Elena*~ at all, because someone so perfect cannot be judged.

Also, I now realize that exposition is why Matt walked on and off in one page and the stupid promise came up in that, like, three-line exchange.

However, I’m probably over-critical of this because the books are packaged together, and therefore have the sense that they should be read like one big, Twilighty tome.  (Also, I looked up Exposition Avenue.  There’s an Exposition Blvd. in LA, according to Google maps.  Still funny.)

So Meredith exposits that ~*Elena*~ has been paying attention to Stefan, and that ~*Elena*~ is an idiot and also that everything’s her own fault–omg, if I were capable of joking about orgasms I’d say I had one from this speech–and that ~*Elena*~ needs to step up and tell them what’s up because her friends love and trust her, and Bonnie squeaks up with,” Even if you don’t like us, we still like YOU.”

I don’t know how Bonnie dropped about 15 IQ points between books.  Maybe she was out in the snow too long too.

Anyway, no one can resist Bonnie when she’s being lamesauce, so there’s a hugfest.  I’m not even being sarcastic, they literally all hug and cry.

~*Elena*~ then gives, like, 1/45th of the information she knows: that Stefan didn’t kill anyone, but ~*Elena*~ knows who did.  Who hurt Vickie, and the homeless dude, and killed Mr Tanner and Bonnie’s dog.

Meredith, who once again has taken on the sole personality trait of Voice of Reason (at least she has that back, anyway), asks why ~*Elena*~ didn’t go to the police.

The problem with all this, of course, is that when ~*Elena*~ says she CAN’T, we all used to think “No, she can’t,” but as grown-ups we think, “God, she sounds like an overdramatic teenager with authority issues.”  This would not fly in real life.  But she asks her friends to trust her that she can only divulge so much information.

I’m pretty sure I’d be comfortable admitting it’s Stefan’s sexy brother, so they could be wary of domineering, slightly bratty dark-haired strangers, but this IS ~*Elena*~ we’re talking about.  Instead of giving information and doing things that make sense, she decides to exploit Bonnie’s newfound psychic abilities.

So Bonnie’s suddenly stopped being pleased by her Scottish heritage (or did that happen the night of the dumb supper, I forget) and she’s all “The more you use those powers, the more they use YOU.”  Oh, have we been doing some reading?  Or maybe some glamors to hide zits?

~*Elena*~ is slightly sympathetic toward Bonnie’s reluctance, but…STEFAN.  He could be…he could be…wait, didn’t she say like two seconds ago that he totally WASN’T dot-dot-dot?

Then Bonnie gains better posture and asks for a candle.

*

So this is how you find a missing vampire (this may also work for tools because…you know):

-Light a candle
-Look into the flame and think about the missing toolpire
-Shut the hell up

I should try this when I lose my keys.  Seems easy enough.

Bonnie does the typical seance stuff with the fluttering eyelashes and moaning, then starts vocalizing Stefan’s highly-literal thoughts.  ~*Elena*~ is freaking because she doesn’t want Stefnie/Bonfan (pronounced “Bon-FON”) to reveal any secrets, so she breaks the participant silence when s/he refers to himself as Katherine’s killer.  Then Bonnie’s head slumps down dramatically and then comes back up dramatically to proclaim, in the graveyard voice, that death is waiting for ~*Elena*~ at the bridge.

Now we know that Stefan is somewhere cold and wet and jagged and blood-deprived.  But alive.  Ah well.

Bonnie remembers everything that was said in her trance, and of course immediately brings up the whole self-confessed murderer thing.  And ~*Elena*~ lies to her.

~*Elena*~ lies to her.

~*Elena*~, who ten seconds ago begged her friends to trust her because she couldn’t give any more information than she had, flat-out lies to her friends.

You know, if it’s so damn easy to lie to them, why not tell them something, I dunno, REASONABLE?  Stefan’s brother is in the Mafia.  He’s killing everyone to mess with Stefan’s head because he’s a psycho.  You can’t go to the police because there’s no proof, but try not to accept dates with hot dark-haired strangers until this is all settled, etc etc.  I mean, I could come up with a few more stories, but you can see where I’m going with this.  ~*Elena*~ is picking and choosing not only truth, but lies now, and that’s not cool, especially since they hugfested and all.  That’s a bond of sisterhood you don’t break.

99% of the stuff that bugs me about this book is ~*Elena*~ acting like no reasonable heroine ever would, I swear.

Anyway, she decides Stefan is under Wickery Bridge, in the water, and thus concludes Chapter 2.

Next up: Bonnie argues with her.  God, don’t they know ~*Elena*~’s perfect?  And yet suddenly, no one is following her orders to the letter!  It’s like the world’s gone topsy-turvy!

Final notes: Thanks to Sarah for giving us a place to stop, shop (for books, of course), and find good people and good conversation yesterday during our road trip.

WHITNEY, YOU’RE NEXT?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2009 12:22 pm

    i always wondered about that… like why elena never told them damon did it, and that he was stefan’s brother, and a jerk and mentally ill or something and they fought over a girl and now he’s trying to kill him… she could even involve the police, saying something like “stefan and damon both have a condition that makes their eyes and skin sensitive to light, so now damon had a mental breakdown and thinks he’s a vampire” or something. of course, if it was me, i’d probably tell my best friend everything, and then try to figure out what the hell to tell the cops to get them off stefan’s back. but then… my friends would try to steal my vampire boyfriend, because they always wanted one, too. so… maybe not.

    • bookslide permalink*
      June 13, 2009 1:40 pm

      There’s the always-important “If they capture him, they’ll realize he’s a vampire and test him and create an army of monsters”–or maybe I’m reading too much The Last Vampire right now. BUT! If Damon goes to jail, he has to turn in his ring and he’d die. Flat-out. This is all good to know, but we’re all together in that Elena doesn’t think that far ahead or that realistically, right? I mean, WHAT IS SHE DOING ABOUT COLLEGE? Isn’t that 40% of what high school seniors think about? (50% sex/relationships, 10% everything else.)

      At this point, there is no reason for her not to tell Meredith and Bonnie that Stefan and Damon are vampires. They’re already believers, due to Bonnie’s sudden psychic abilities, so what’s another weirdness added to the pile? If we had some idea of WHY Elena was doing what she’s doing, then it would be okay, I think, but because we’re handed this information with nothing behind it, it’s plain old lame writing. Boo hiss.

  2. Sam permalink
    June 18, 2009 10:31 am

    I LOVED THE LAST VAMPIRE!!!!! I completely forgot about those books.

    • bookslide permalink*
      June 19, 2009 10:16 am

      I’m sad that I don’t have four. I’ve never finished the series.

  3. Cynic permalink
    October 28, 2010 8:27 pm

    You know, going back into these books, I see the things, as an adult, I find utterly ridiculous to read. However, I do see the things I liked about it – the things L. J. excells at, as a writer, but I also see the things I WISH this book had been.

    I always thought there should have been more of Meredith in these books. Meredith was (nearly) a fully developed character, even without much deposition. She was logical, funny – and, what this book tends to lack, mature.

    No offense to Elena-Sue, but I would’ve much rather read the book with Meredith as the main character.

    • October 29, 2010 9:48 am

      I think, given the time period when the book was published, that never would’ve happened.

      Also, there’s a chunk of time in the books where you can’t tell Meredith from Bonnie, which is some lazy writing. It’s only later when Meredith is all Meredith-y.

      • Cynic permalink
        October 30, 2010 4:22 am

        Well, this assuming L. J. would give *anyone* as much screen time as she did Elena. Neither Bonnie or Meredith are given as much background/personality/ect.

        Meredith, even less so.

        In Dark Reunion, when Elena is gone, the characters in general seemed to have (better) characterization than in the three previous books; then again, this is probably extremely biased, considering Elena was the biggest reason I can never take these books seriously.

  4. October 30, 2010 9:37 am

    Well, she HAS to characterize everyone better, because there isn’t one focus. But I agree with you.

    I don’t even think she’s a godawful writer…well, not exactly. I mean, I ADORE Secret Vampire. I love every second of its tightly-plotted, rounded-charactered ass. And some of the pieces are there in TVD, but not all of them. She’s good at foreshadowing. She’s funny, when she wants to be. But she falls into the pit: she loves certain characters TOO much, and isn’t willing to let them go when she should. So. Recipe for disaster.

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