Unfortunately, the first book at least, was not as good as I remembered it being and therefore I have had to deduct a star from my rating. To be clear, the book isn't horrible. I still think it's better than Twilight and most other paranormal romances written today, but the book certainly had flaws that my teenage self was able to overlook but my adult self couldn't.
L. J. Smith is one of the better young adult paranormal writers in terms of writing style. While some of the love scenes between Elena and Stefan were a little bit purplish, the writing overall was clear and free of grammatical errors. Smith does tend to overuse some descriptions. Elena is constantly described as icy, Stefan's eyes are like green ice, and Damon's skin is like frosty glass. It got a little irritating by the end of the short book.
One of the strongest points of this book and the rest of the original series (from what I can remember) is that although the love story between Elena and Stefan is front and center, there is an actual plot outside of their relationship (and the love triangle) that is present throughout the entire novel and series.
Unfortunately, the love story between Elena and Stefan is not very compelling. Again, we have two characters that are drawn to each other from the moment they lay eyes on each other and are declaring their undying love from the very beginning of their relationship. Even as a teenager, I didn't like Stefan and I always hoped Elena would end up with his much less emo, more interesting brother, Damon.
Damon as a character still shows promise even ten years later, but he's much less attractive than I remember. His deplorable behavior along with the lack of a sympathetic backstory makes me question the love I had for the character in my teens. However, I still prefer him to the current YA paranormal jerks like Patch and Edward Cullen. What differentiates Damon is that his bad behavior is admonished by the other characters. He is the bad boy who needs to change for the heroine in order to be worthy of her, which is much easier to stomach than the current literature that glorifies stalking and controlling behavior.
One of the major flaws of this novel is that Elena is an unlikable character. She is selfish, vain, and superficial. But at least she has friends who she doesn't seem to completely abandon for her boyfriend. She isn't a very good friend to them but at least it seems that her boyfriend isn't the cause of this. She was always a bad friend. I found that I disliked Elena so much that I was sympathetic towards her rival, Caroline, who is a two dimensional villain.
Overall, I wasn't terribly impressed but it was a light short read and it did confirm that L. J. Smith is not as good a writer as she once was.