These books are very similar to Twilight. Vampire Diaries even has a werewolf making an appearance. It makes a very useful comparison in that the Vampire Diaries serves to demonstrate how easily Twilight could have gone wrong in the hands of a less talented author.
I read Vampire Diaries when I was in fifth grade. Like Twilight, Vampire Diaries is built on the premise of girl meets guy, girl falls in love with guy, guy falls in love with girl, guy just happens to be a vampire and stuff ensues from there. The Bella Swan character here is named Elena Gilbert and the role of Edward Cullen is taken up by Stefan Salvatore. Stefan, a vegetarian/black-ribbon vampire, comes from Renaissance Italy where he had a brother named Damon. Both he and Damon, while hating each other, fell in love with the same woman, Katherine, and asked her to choose between them. Katherine, unbeknownst to them, was a vampire and, unwilling to make a choice, decided to go with both of them. Stefan and Damon proved unwilling to live with the arrangement. Seeing this Katherine committed suicide by stepping out unprotected into sunlight. (The obvious plot twist does occur. We later find out that Katherine faked her suicide and shows up in the present.) Elena looks almost exactly like Katherine and, once Damon shows up, she becomes caught up in this centuries old brotherly war. Damon in the right hands could have been an interesting character along the lines of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He is the villain through the first two books, who becomes good, at least sort of, and provides the cynical commentary. As it plays out in the book though, Damon comes out as making no sense. When the books needed him as a villain they made him a villain and then make him one of the good guys once Stefan needs a brotherly side kick.
Just to be clear, I do not consider Vampire Diaries to be worthwhile reading. They are like the Twilight series, but without the charm, Bella’s running straight-man commentary and the long supply of characters that one actually cares about. The quality writing is about the same as two better known young adult horror authors of that generation, R. L. Stine with his Fear Street series (This is before he turned to writing for pre-adolescents with the Goosebumps series.) and Christopher Pike. Smith is on the more chaste side of things, more Stine than Pike. I find it to be an interesting reflection on our society that Twilight has been controversial for its abstinence message. There is more sexual content in Twilight than Vampire Diaries. Vampire Diaries was written long ago in the early 90s when one could write young adult novels without any sex and no one would think twice. (One had to be careful on the off chance that ten year old Orthodox boys might read them.) To be fair to Smith, I did read all four of the books in the series back then. (I have since found out that she has continued the series in recent years.) Despite the fact that I viewed the books then as trash and would likely have an even lower opinion now, there must have been something that drew me in. I even fantasized about being able to play Klaus, the “big bad” who appears in the fourth book as the vampire behind the scene pulling the strings of the story. I do think I would make a great vampire and would love to play one. Klaus, though, would be too head man Dracula vampire for me. I would be better off as the second-in-command vampire who gets to run around, kill people and laugh.
Soon after Twilight became really big with Breaking Dawn, I noticed Vampire Diaries on sale in a two volume edition. I had a laugh at that; apparently Twilight was powerful enough to resurrect a book from the netherworld of used paperbacks. Now I find out that Vampire Diaries is being made into a television show by the CW. That counts as taking the desire for something Twilight-like to an extreme. Since the source material was mediocre at best and is being made, one assumes, because it is like Twilight, I do not expect the show to be any good nor do I expect it to last for more than a few weeks. I would like to say that will have the good sense to not bother watching it at all. I suspect, though, that I will find myself watching at least an episode for all time’s sake.
I would like to add a side note as to the nature of young adult/teenage fiction. As it should be clear from the post, I regularly read young adult fiction before I was a teenager when I was a pre-adolescent reading on a teenage level. I still read a fair amount of young adult material since I have a strong inner-child and like a good story no matter what age category. In this sense I represent both ends of the market for young adult literature. This begs the question of is the audience for young adult literature really teenagers. The book reading population is quite small and those who do read are likely to be significantly above average readers. Teenagers who actually read books are likely to be at an adult reading level and therefore reading adult books. Pre-adolescent readers, though, are likely to be reading at a teenage level and will therefore turn to young adult books. On the flip side there are also going to be adults who are going to be attracted to young adult fiction. Sean Jordan argues that since most adults are not capable of reading adult fiction there is a large market for children’s books that are mature enough to appeal to adults but are “childlike” enough for such people to read. He makes this argument in regards to Harry Potter. The model would also fit Twilight and to a large extent the Da Vinci Code (a young adult book openly marketed for adults from the beginning) as well. In the end audience for young adult books are not teenagers, but pre-adolescents and adults.