When I finished The Awakening, the first part of this series, I thought the book had a severe case of First-Book-In-Series-Disease. All the symptoms for FBISD were there; there is a lot of getting to know each other going on, the plot is rather weak, the whole mission of the book is us getting to know the world and the context. In the next books, the series pick up and the real story-line starts.
Yet it seems I have diagnosed the Vampire Diaries incorrectly. The Struggle picks off where The Awakening stops. And then it continues at exactly the same pace. It took me three-quarter of the book to discover the real story arch. To me, the plot seemed to go nowhere. Elena is still one of the spoiled and pettiest characters I have ever met. She puts on a big "oh I can't trust anyone" fuss and constantly keeps secrets from the great love of her life. That she has a hard time keeping his vampirism from people she knows, I can absolutely understand. But that she can't even tell her boyfriend that someone has stolen her diary is completely beyond me.
There is nothing wrong with the overall concept behind the story or the writing on itself, but the main characters annoy me. (You know something is wrong when you start hoping the girl dumps her boyfriend and ends up with the big bad guy that kills people. At least he has something interesting to do.) The main issue I have with this book is the message it gives. If you have to believe Elena, using people at your desire, even though you're hurting them while doing it, is perfectly fine. You needed them, right? Not being the queen of the entire school is absolutely horrific too. Not having everyone say hi to you when you walk through corridors is disastrous. Sucks to be normal, huh.
In one scene, she almost had my sympathy. When she thinks she has out-smarted said big bad guy, he does the completely logical thing to do as proper villain; go after your family. His target: the little innocent sister. Elena between them as a proper heroine should. Yet her sole thought while protecting her little sister is that she must help her, because she's still a baby! Apparently, it's completely normal to let an older sister fight off the murderer you've send upon them, yet it's unacceptable when the fight is unfair. And there was I hoping for a redeeming quality.
This is not a "bad" book. The writing on itself is pretty good, clear and polished with a smooth dialogue flow. Even the story is not that bad. If only Ms Smith would concentrate on things that do matter. The high-school part of the book was in complete unbalance with the vampire part. It feels like she thought one day "hey, this is just another book about the popular girl at school, lets throw in vampires so it's more interesting!". I wish there was more vampire and less high school. I think I would like the book a lot better then.