Book series for teenage girls by L.J. Smith that came out in the mid-nineties. The story centers around Elena Gilbert, a vaguely generic blonde girl who has just returned from a holiday in France to find that a vampire has enrolled in her highschool. Elena is immediately obsessed with the handsome, wealthy, and mysterious newcomer and decides even before she knows his name that she's going to leave her boring, safe, boyfriend for him. (They say something like "Elena realized over the summer that she loved matt, but it was more like the love of a friend," but still.)

The newcomer's name is Stefan Salvatore, who wants nothing to do with Elena because she is the spitting image of his ex-girlfriend Katherine. You know, the one who couldn't decide between him and his evil bastard brother, so she made them both vampires and then killed herself when her idea that they would all live together went horribly wrong?

Stefan is the model of the emo/repentant vampire type we've been seeing so much of in recent years. From his point of view we find out all about the things that happened to him in Renaissance Florence with Katherine, what a jerk his brother Damon is, and that he has taken a vow not to drink the blood of humans. He has come to the town of Fells Church to start a new life.

Elena is determined to have Stefan, though, so she and her friends Bonnie (the sweet but ditzy redhead with psychic powers) and Meredith (tough and sarcastic) use all their resources as the rulers of their high school to get the two together. They even swear a blood oath in the graveyard that they will do anything to forward their cause. Bonnie starts having weird psychic visions and Stefan stays away from Elena, snubbing her but being nice to everyone else, p0wning an unpopular history teacher and (after some convincing from matt) joining the football team.

The homecoming dance comes along and Stefan attends with Elena's rival, Caroline. Elena attends with a boy called Tyler Smallwood who attempts to date-rape her, but Stefan saves her, going into a rage and revealing to Elena that he is a vampire. The two of them get together and everything would be just peachy except that that's when Damon shows up.

Damon also goes after Elena. Damon is the other typical vampire type we've seen. He is described as "every inch a courtier" and we are told that when he was human he dropped out of the university so that he could make more time for hunting, fighting, chicks, etc. We are told that he was the leader of a mercenary company, but most importantly we see his effect on women, which is something like chuck Norris made of chocolate. The two brothers fight over Elena a bit, she exchanges blood with both of them, considers her options. But unlike Katherine she sticks to her guns and insists that she loves Stefan.

That's when Stefan disappears. the history teacher and Bonnie's little yappy dog have also been murdered and everyone assumes Damon's behind all of it. Elena goes to confront him in a spectacular shouting match. Stefan is found at the bottom of a well tortured and sick. (In this world running water causes vampires some difficulty.) And just when it looks like maybe the lovers are out of the woods a snowstorm chases Elena off a rickety old bridge and she dies. Luckily Elena's had enough blood to come back as a vampire, but her memories are all messed up and she believes that she loves Damon.

Elena goes around pretending she's dead to everyone but her closest friends. She gets to attend her own funeral. But now it's absolutely certain that some other powerful entity is operating in their town: Bonnie has more and more premonitions of doom, a girl in Elena's class, unpopular Vickie Bennett, is subjected to all kinds of attacks and supernatural bullying. The dogs of the town go crazy and start attacking people. Eventually everyone holes up in the church while Stefan, Elena, and Damon get kidnapped by the mysterious other power who is none other than... Katherine! Surprise! Reports of her death were greatly exaggerated, and while before she was crazy in a sweet, helpless way, she is now full blown claw your eye out batshit. Katherine keeps them chained while she confesses to most of the things that happened and tortures them a bit. Finally Elena works her way free just enough to knock into Katherine, sending them both to their deaths in the sunlight.

That would have been the end of the books, but the fans wrote in by the hundreds saying that they couldn't end the books that way, so a fourth book was published. In this volume bonnie is the narrator and Elena comes to her in her dreams attempting to warn her about someone and telling her something about a spell she wants her to do. She, Meredith, Caroline, Sue Carson, and Vickie Bennet decide to try to contact Elena with a Ouija board, which works at first, but then the thing Elena is trying to warn her about takes over the board and does scary things, culminating in the death of Sue.

The spell that Bonnie was told to do is a spell to summon Stefan, but the main ingredients are hair and blood and when they scraped Stefan's off the floor of the tomb where Katherine held them captive they also got some of Damon's, so he comes too. The villain this time is the ridiculously powerful vampire Klaus. One of the Originals, the vampires who made a deal with the devil in order to get that way. Klaus is a big fan of the 1950's. He loves the spaniel's song "goodnight sweetheart" and talks like he comes from Riverdale. They spend a lot of time finding out the weapon they can use to kill Klaus. Because he is so powerful, only a certain kind of wood will kill him. Eventually Meredith and the new history teacher and psychologist to vampire victims Alaric Saltzman, realize that the reason Meredith's grandfather went crazy is because he was attacked by Klaus, and he tells them what they need is white ash wood. Then after some serious angst on Stefan's part it's off to slay Klaus who nearly kills them all except that Elena, the ghost of the town founder, and the ghosts of the civil war soldiers kind of gang up on him and somehow when the dust has cleared Elena is alive and unvamped. And then they all lived happily ever after. Mostly.

One of the most interesting subplots in the final book is the one about Matt, who Elena fed on during her short time as a vampire. He finds himself questioning the point of going forward at all if bad things are going to happen and becomes very depressed and withdrawn after Elena's death. The scene where Stefan convinces him that if he gives up, evil only gets stronger is one of the more well-written emotional scenes.

This series and all the others by L.J. Smith have a huge cult following. Now that you know the basics you should read the fan fictions, some of them are better than the actual books. Or if you'd like to try the series, it's recently been reissued to take advantage of the Twilight phenomenon, and has even been optioned for a televison series by the CW, which is making the original fandom very apprehensive because Ms. Smith just released a the first book in a new trilogy which she acknowledges is not her best work, to put it mildly. Smith blames this problem on having two different editors, and the fans have noticed glaring inconsistencies in personalities, world-building, and style between this new book and the original series.

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