When I was fifteen and sixteen I was reading adult fiction, not stories by L.J. Smith which is rather amusing because if I had read these stories when they were newly published I would have been in her target audience, and maybe I would have enjoyed them more. Not that I haven’t enjoyed reading the Vampire Diaries series, but the last volume had so much potential and it just fizzled out.
This disappointing beginning to my commentary can be explained by one simple phrase: Deus Ex Machina. Having been on a reading kick lately I’ve begun to discover more about what I do and do not like about stories, and this random God Saves All idea has got to be one of the most annoying things. In Vampire Diaries (current volume) we begin the first tale by learning that Elena has been turned into a vampire, and by the end of this first story she is truly dead. The second tale shows us Elena in the afterlife, and she is communicating through one of her best friends, Bonnie (a psychic and descendent of the druids). This was interesting in itself, but the whole effect was ruined when after they destroyed one of the Old Ones, a vampire who had walked with the Devil himself, Elena cures everyone of their injuries and then appears as though she was going to disappear beyond all connections – but she suddenly, and inexplicably, appears again, alive. And Smith, instead of giving us an explanation, just ends the story with (I’m paraphrasing here) “It’s too complicated and you wouldn’t understand.
What saddens me most about this ending is the fact that there were so many other great things in this second set of stories in the series: the return of Katherine, Bonnie’s increased powers, young people dealing with loss, and so forth, and then she has to go and ruin it by giving it a ‘happily ever after’ ending. I didn’t realize that she was writing a fairy tale. I’m more vexed because there is talk in the story bout how sometimes it seems like we do things and they don’t make it better, but apparently we do thinks so that we get an unexplained happy ending. It’s ridiculous.
I suppose what irks me about this ending is that it shows exactly what I’ve been hearing about for so long: how Harry Potter upped the ante for children/teen stories. I’m beginning to see just how much by reading these stories. It is true that these vampire novels and novellas are primarily romance stories set against a supernatural backdrop, but the later stories in Vampire Diaries were less romance based (particularly the last one) and better for it. They did still lack the complicated plots of Harry Potter. Moments like the reveal of who Sirius Black really was, or the idea that Mad-Eye Moody, the best Auror that the Ministry of Magic ever had might be a bad guy, seem to be unheard of in children and teen stories, which is really unfortunate.
I suppose in sum, I’m measuring everything up to my beloved Harry Potter and I haven’t yet found a teen story that comes close. It’s unfortunate, but I’m going to keep at it.