Four months after the tragic car accident that killed their parents, 17-year-old Elena Gilbert and her 15-year-old brother, Jeremy, are still adjusting to their new reality. Elena has always been the star student; beautiful, popular and involved with school and friends, but now she finds herself struggling to hide her grief from the world. Elena and Jeremy are now living with their cool-but-overwhelmed Aunt Jenna, who is doing her best to be a surrogate parent.
Elena manages to find some comfort with her familiar social circle – best friend Bonnie, frenemy Caroline, and former boyfriend Matt, but Jeremy is on a more dangerous path, hanging out with the stoners and using drugs to hide his pain. Jeremy is also trying to figure out why Matt’s sister, Vicki, is suddenly rejecting him and hanging out with Jeremy’s rival, Tyler.
As the school year begins at Mystic Falls High School, Elena and her friends are fascinated by a handsome and mysterious new student, Stefan Salvatore. Stefan and Elena are immediately drawn to one another, although Elena is puzzled by Stefan’s increasingly bizarre behavior when he appears suddenly at the cemetery where her parents are buried. What she doesn’t realize is that Stefan is hiding a dark, deadly secret of his own – the fact that he’s a 161 year old vampire. At a bonfire party the next night, Elena and Stefan are just getting to know each other when chaos erupts after Vicki is attacked and left bleeding from a savage bite to the neck.
Fearing that he knows who is responsible for the attack, Stefan returns home and finds his older brother, Damon, whom he hasn’t seen for 15 years. Damon is also a vampire, and the two brothers have a long and bitter history. Damon ridicules Stefan for rejecting their legacy of violence and brutality, but he understands his brother’s obsession with Elena, since she looks exactly like a woman Stefan loved more than a century ago; a woman that Damon tried to make his own. Now these two vampire brothers – one good, one evil – are at war for Elena’s soul and for the souls of her friends, family and all the residents of Mystic Falls, Virginia.