Please be warned of spoilers for the entire series, spoilers I'm sure will appear in the show sooner or later.
First: Elena is awesome. Let's get that straight right away. They completely lobotomized her for the TV series, so just ignore that version. It's like the scriptwriter looked at the books and saw ELENA SNARLING AT AN EVIL IMMORTAL SHAPESHIFTING VAMPIRE and then said, hmm, we could go with that... but instead let's have her read quietly in the corner!
In the books Elena is a pretty, popular, ruthless blonde with no qualms stepping on other people to get her way. (Much like Caroline of the show, interestingly enough.) She rules the school and everyone knows it. Her outfits are perfect. Her minions are devoted bootlickers. She reduces other girls to tears as she steals their homecoming dates right out from under them -- during the homecoming dance.
Here's her take on things:
After all, what was more important than boys? They were the mark of how popular you were, of how beautiful you were. And they could be useful for all sorts of things. Sometimes they were exciting, but usually that didn't last long.
Most boys, Elena reflected, were like puppies. Adorable in their place, but expendable.
This girl is like the Xena of social climbing. She demands respect from her clique, fully expects the attention of everyone in the room, and routinely pulls these Jedi-like POW psychological tricks to keep her flunkies in line:
Frances's eyes were blazing, and her cheeks were flushed with color as she approached the three girls at the table.
"Oh, Elena, you've got to hear this!"
Elena smiled at her, polite but not too intimate. Frances ducked her brown head. "I mean… can I join you? I've just heard the wildest thing about Stefan Salvatore."
"Have a seat," said Elena graciously.
Is that not fierce? You have to admire a bitch like that.
So Elena is strutting her stuff and making other people cry, only to meet her match in the school's mysterious new hunk, Stefan Salvatore. Stefan has a "lean, flat-muscled body, faded jeans he probably had to peel off at night, tight t-shirt, and a leather jacket of unusual cut" (not to mention "dark hair like one of the roiling storm clouds behind him" and "a mouth to keep you awake at night" and oh my god I can't go on).
Stefan proves his cool by backtalking the history teacher.
As queen bee, Elena instantly decides she must have him, even -- especially -- because he doesn't seem to want her back.
Elena watched him as he went. He'd deliberately turned away from her. He'd snubbed her on purpose, and in front of Caroline, who'd been watching like a hawk. Tears burned in her eyes, but at that moment only one thought burned in her mind.
She'd have him, even if it killed her. If it killed both of them, she'd have him.
Stefan can move like lightning, hypnotize people to his will, and only venture in sunlight wearing a special ring, but Elena can't understand why he's such a brooding, moody enigma.
She tilted her head far back to look at the trapdoor in the ceiling, and heard a soft, distinct intake of breath. When she turned, his gaze was fixed on her exposed throat; the look in his eyes confused her. But the next moment his face hardened, closing her out.
What on earth could he be hiding?!
Fun fact: she doesn't realize the truth until the end of the book, when she walks in on him literally GNAWING ON A BIRD, BLOOD DRIPPING FROM HIS MOUTH. I'm all for romantic escapism, seriously, but is there ANYONE IN THE WORLD who could walk in on their boyfriend EATING A BIRD and not think "wait a minute, maybe I need to rethink some of my choices"??
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before the munchies, there is true love.
Elena felt Stefan's lips meet hers.
And… it was as simple as that. All questions answered, all fears put to rest, all doubts removed. What she felt was not merely passion, but a bruising tenderness and a love so strong it made her shake inside. It would have been frightening in its intensity, except that while she was with him, she could not be afraid of anything.
She had come home.
This was where she belonged, and she had found it at last. With Stefan, she was home.
They've known each other a month, by the way.
Then she saw the thin strip of silk, folded over and over on itself neatly in one corner. She drew it out and ran it between her fingers. It was the apricot ribbon she'd lost the second day of school.
Oh, Stefan. Tears stung her eyes, and in her chest love welled up helplessly, overflowing.
That long ago? You cared about me that long ago? Oh, Stefan, I love you…
What she hadn't known in the beginning (FOUR WEEKS AGO) is that Stefan never meant to shun her -- he was actually just hiding his deep emo pain because she was the spitting image of his first love, Katherine -- the vampire who sired him hundreds of years ago in renaissance Italy.
WHO ALSO SIRED HIS EVIL OLDER BROTHER, DAMON.
Who can turn into a horny crow.
I hope you're following this.
beckerbell: Do you mind spoilers? I'm reading the Wiki and it's just. a sdl;fkja;slkjalkjs
darkeyedwolf: tell me, tell me!
beckerbell: It's talking about how the fight between Stefan and Damon got started. "In Renaissance Italy, the brothers both fell in love with a young vampire named Katherine, who later committed suicide after the two brothers turned against each other. They fought for her love and she decided to choose them both as lovers and exchanged blood with them, turning them both vampires. Fueled with rage, the brothers killed each other but woke up as vampires."
beckerbell: I LOVE IT. I love that she was like, hmm, I could choose one... but, no, I'll take both instead!
darkeyedwolf: fsdhfklsdjfhsdklfjsdf LOL
beckerbell: as;ldkfjasl;kj oh my god some of this is coming back now
beckerbell: Do you mind more spoilers?
darkeyedwolf: *greedy* tell me everything!
darkeyedwolf: oh, god, stefan comparing katherina and elena: "where katherine had been a white kitten, elena was a snow-white tigress."
beckerbell: So, Elena's torn between the two brothers but bad things are happening. One night, some dark presence chases her off a bridge and her car goes into the river. She drowns and they all think it's Damon who did this. But it's not and they start investigating more and, in the third book, it leads them to Honoria Fell's tomb and:
beckerbell: "and it turns out to be Katherine, who in fact did not die centuries before as the brothers had thought. Instead, she had faked her death, having her maid bring ashes from the kitchen, lay them out on her dress, and put her lapis lazuli ring on top, while she had another forged, making it looked as if she had killed herself. Since then, Stefan has lived with the guilt of her death, while Katherine has spent that time seething with anger. She decides to take revenge, and is jealous of Elena for "stealing" both brothers' love."
darkeyedwolf: *SHRIEKS WITH LAUGHTER*\
darkeyedwolf: OMG IT'S A KDRAMA
beckerbell: IT GETS WORSE, TOO.
darkeyedwolf: i SO hope they keep that for the tv show
beckerbell: Katherine and Elena fight, ending the fight only when Elena knocks Katherine into the sunlight without her ring. But Elena doesn't have one, either.
beckerbell: So, they both turn to ash, but Elena has time to tell Stefan and Damon to stop fighting, to take care of each other, and that she loved Stefan and didn't want to hurt him like Katherine had.
beckerbell: End book three. Start of book four, six months later, titled: DARK REUNION.
I CAN'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP. I REALLY CAN'T. A fifteenth century lady vampire shipped her own threesome and then faked her death to become a dark vengeful force while her boytoys roamed high school for fresh romance. HILARIOUS.
In flashbacks they actually argue about who gets to be her husband and she tries to woo them to her wicked poly ways:
"This is my choice! I love you both, and I will not give either of you up. Now we all three will be together, and be happy."
"Happy—" Stefan choked out.
"Yes, happy! The three of us will be companions, joyous companions, forever." Her voice rose with elation, and the light of a radiant child shone in her eyes. "We will be together always, never feeling sickness, never growing old, until the end of time! That is my choice."
But they are TOO OVERCOME WITH MUTUAL
"I don't remember how we got back to the house, but suddenly I had my sword. We were fighting. I wanted to destroy that arrogant face forever, to kill him. I remember my father shouting from the house. We fought harder, to finish it before he reached us.
"And we were well matched. But Damon had always been stronger, and that day he seemed faster, too, as if he had changed more than I had. And so while my father was still shouting from the window I felt Damon's blade get past my guard. Then I felt it enter my heart."
Elena stared, aghast, but he went on without pause. "I felt the pain of the steel, I felt it stab through me, deep, deep inside. All the way through, a hard thrust. And then the strength poured out of me and I fell. I lay there on the paved ground."
He looked up at Elena and finished simply, "And that is how… I died."
Elena sat frozen, as if the ice she'd felt in her chest earlier tonight had flooded out and trapped her.
"Damon came and stood over me and bent down. I could hear my father's cries from far away, and screams from the household, but all I could see was Damon's face. Those black eyes that were like a moonless night. I wanted to hurt him for what he had done to me. For everything he had done to me, and to Katherine." Stefan was quiet a moment, and then he said, almost dreamily, "And so I lifted my sword and I killed him. With the last of my strength, I stabbed my brother through the heart."
Then they wake side-by-side in the family tomb, which is just icing on the throbbing gay penis cake.
A few centuries years later they bring their feud to Mystic Falls, where Damon is not at all pleased to be missing the action with Katherine's nubile young doppelganger. The author is totally in love with Damon, by the way, because he gets all these loving descriptions of how sexy and enchanting he is:
Nevertheless, she was not fooled. Charming as he seemed, Damon was dangerous almost beyond imagination. That graceful, lounging body was ten times stronger than a human's. Those lazy dark eyes were adapted to seeing perfectly at night. The long-fingered hand that had pulled her up to the roof could move with impossible quickness. And, most disturbing of all, his mind was the mind of a killer. A predator.
He laughed suddenly, and Elena's heart jerked and began pounding hard. God, he was beautiful. Handsome was too weak and colorless a word. As usual, the laughter lasted only a moment, but even when his lips had sobered it left traces in his eyes.
"I do believe you," he said, relaxing, looking around the graveyard. Then he turned back and held out a hand to her. "You're too good for my brother," he said casually.
You see, Damon admires her spirit and strength, and he sees in her the potential to be an evil megalomaniac (which is a hilarious commentary on high school Mean Girls when you think about it). He wants to rule the world with her, "feared and worshipped by all the weaker souls." DIRECT QUOTE. He wants her to be QUEEN OF THE SHADOWS.
"My brother," he went on, "is a fool. He thinks that because you look like Katherine you're weak and easily led like her. But he's wrong. I could feel your anger from the other side of town. I can feel it now, a white light like the desert sun. You have strength, Elena, even as you are. But you could be so much stronger..."
"Why not?" he whispered. "Why not try it, Elena? Be honest. Isn't there a part of you that wants to?" His dark eyes were full of a heat and intensity that held her transfixed, unable to look away. "I can waken things inside you that have been sleeping all your life. You're strong enough to live in the dark, to glory in it. You can become a queen of the shadows. Why not take that Power, Elena? Let me help you take it."
Damon/Elena is everything I pretend to hate about romance novels (yet secretly eat like candy). She's the feisty heroine! He's the tempting bad boy! He's like, "be mine or I'll slaughter your entire family" and Elena is all "no! no! well, maybe."
By the end of the second book I really just wanted her to take his hand and go on a killing spree and become his murderous bloodsoaked vampire queen. It doesn't help that in the show he's played by Ian Somerhalder, who strokes Elena's hair and makes it look like porn. I was talking to Becky about how much I loved them and she was like, you know it'll never happen, right? You know you're shipping the impossible, right? And all my deep and intelligent opinions were reduced to "...but it's Ian Somerhalder!"
"You just don't want it to be Damon," said Meredith. "I would think you'd be more worried about him being a psycho killer than a diary thief."
"I don't know; killers are sort of romantic. Imagine your dying with his hands around your throat. He'd strangle the life out of you, and the last thing you'd see would be his face." Putting her own hands to her throat, Bonnie gasped and expired tragically, ending up draped across the bed. "He can have me anytime," she said, eyes still closed.
And people worry about teen girls reading Twilight.
(You have to laugh because the other answer is hitting yourself in the face until everything goes numb.)
Anyway, Damon is wrecking havoc in the town, stalking, killing, feeding, framing his brother for murder. He tries to convince Stefan to join the fun, but baby brother is too virtuous (unless he's hungry and you're a bird) and he resists Damon's temptation.
"I've kept track of you over the years," Damon said calmly. He flicked a bit of bark from the sleeve of his leather jacket as casually as he had once arranged his brocade cuffs. "But then, you wouldn't know that, would you? Ah, no, your Powers are as weak as ever."
"Be careful, Damon," Stefan said softly, dangerously. "Be very careful tonight. I'm not in a tolerant mood."
"St. Stefan in a pique? Imagine. You're distressed, I suppose, because of my little excursions into your territory. I only did it because I wanted to be close to you. Brothers should be close."
I really can't convey how gay this whole section is. It's hard to limit my quotes. Stefan hates his brother but thinks of him in the most sexy, flattering terms possible, all while Damon elegantly fiddles with his clothes and basically fucks him with words. It gets even more amazing when Stefan finally loses his temper. Behold:
Kill him, something in Stefan's mind demanded. Kill him, snap his neck, rip his throat to bloody shreds. But he knew Damon had fed very well tonight. His brother's dark aura was swollen, pulsing, almost shining with the life essence he had taken.
HIS BROTHER'S DARK SWOLLEN AURA, PULSING WITH LIFE.
HIS BROTHER'S DARK SWOLLEN AURA, PULSING WITH LIFE.
HIS BROTHER'S DARK SWOLLEN AURA, PULSING WITH LIFE.
Then Damon overpowers him, restrains him, and feeds from his helpless neck, mocking him telepathically for his weakness as he drinks his brother's blood.
IT'S JUST AS SLASHY AS IT SOUNDS.
He lashed out savagely, trying to strike at the vulnerable area under Damon's jaw. It did no good; his arms were pinioned behind him, his body immobilized. He was as helpless as a bird under the claws of a lean and expert cat.
You always were stubborn. Perhaps this will convince you. Stefan looked into his brother's face, pale as the frosted-glass windows at the boarding house, and at those black bottomless eyes. Then he felt fingers grasp his hair, jerk his head back, exposing his throat. His struggles redoubled, became frantic.
Don't bother, came the voice in his head, and then he felt the sharp rending pain of teeth. He felt the humiliation and helplessness of the hunter's victim, of the hunted, of the prey. And then the pain of blood being drawn out against his will.
Then, abruptly, the hands released him and he fell to the ground, onto a bed of damp and moldering oak leaves. Gasping for breath, he painfully got to his hands and knees.
"You see, little brother, I'm stronger than you. Strong enough to take you, take your blood and your life if I wish it. Leave Elena to me, or I will."
Stefan looked up. Damon was standing with head thrown back, legs slightly apart, like a conqueror putting his foot on the neck of the conquered. Those night-black eyes were hot with triumph, and Stefan's blood was on his lips.
FUCK YEAH, STRAIGHT MEN! ROLL AROUND THE DIRT! EXCHANGE MORE FLUIDS! You can't tell me the author didn't know what she was doing. It's so subtle.
Hatred filled Stefan, such hatred as he had never known before. It was as if all his earlier hatred of Damon had been a drop of water to this crashing, foaming ocean.
OH GOD WAIT HERE'S AN EVEN BETTER ONE
The hot pinpoint of fury inside him burned brighter than ever, pouring forth its brilliance like a whole galaxy of stars. He knew, somehow, that it threatened Damon's darkness.
LOLOLOLOL. To recap, Damon has a swollen, pulsing aura of darkness, which Stefan battles with his pouring, foaming oceans of feeling. Anyone wanna take a stab at the gender dynamic here?
There's tons more, but the length of this entry is getting ridiculous. (Let me just say their next epic battle takes place while they are both birds. Why the bird fixation? We'll never know.) I highly recommend everyone find this series, because I know you're all self-loathing masochists looking for a cheap thrill, JUST LIKE ME.