This book is the second in the Vampire Diaries series. If you purchased this book after 2007 you received "The Awakening" and "The Struggle" as a packaged deal. If you suffered through the first, you probably read the second, and know from experience what a "Struggle" reading it was. The second book starts up right where the first left off, as a result "The Awakening" and "The Struggle" feel more like one really long story rather than two separate novels. In the opening pages Elena is screaming for Damon to answer her and demands to know what has happened to her boyfriend, and Damon's brother, Stefan. Damon tries to use his vampire "influence" on Elena to get her to forget about Stefan and come away with him. Of course, she refuses, Damon parts with some ridiculous line about her being "his before the fall of winter" or something similar. Elena calls on her friends for help and they are able to locate Stefan, who is badly hurt. Elena offers him her blood to help him heal.
Unlike many other vampire novels the exchange of blood between humans and vampires is not a prominent part of this book. It only occurs in dyer straights (ie serious injury), or by force (though this is sort of glossed over and treated as if it isn't a big deal, when all characteristic of the characters involved indicate it should be).
There is more action in this book than in the last, so that is an improvement. There is also less of Elena being "Queen of High School", and more of her hanging out with her friends and caring for them and her boyfriend, which is also an improvement as well.
As I mentioned before, this book is better then the last one, but really that's like saying eating cardboard is better then eating wood, neither is actual food, one is just slightly less painful to chew. It is an improvement that there is more of Damon in this story. I really wanted to like Damon, and he had such promise. If Smith could have just made him a bit more likable and been more convincing in his feelings for Elena, but all of that fell short. I suppose it's telling about the character developments that the one "likable" character is the one who stalks the heroine and forces her to drink his blood, causing her to become a vampire upon her death. Which brings me to the next issue. Why would Stefan not be upset when he finds out that his brother ha been drinking his girlfriends blood against her will? Also, why is it suddenly a "love triangle"? Elena never gave any indication that she had feels for Damon, nor did he give her any reason to care about him at all.
Bottom Line: More of the same "Struggle" as getting through the first book, only with slightly more action (but no romantic action, so look elsewhere if that's what you're after). I still recommend reading something else.