About the Book

Title: The Initiation (The Secret Circle #1)
The Captive (The Secret Circle #2)
The Power (The Secret Circle #3)
Published: 1992
Series: The Secret Circle
Swoonworthy Scale: 9

Cover Story: Delicious 90s YA
BFF Charm: Eventually
Talky Talk: Sky and Sea, Keep Harm From Me
Bonus Factor: Witchcraft!
Relationship Status: First Love

Cover Story: Delicious ’90s YA

The original Secret Circle covers are by far my favorite. Cheesy? A little. Nostalgic? Hell yes. These were my first L.J. Smith books, and I distinctly remember standing in a Barnes and Noble with my mother, around age 11 or 12, fascinated by the images of the models (particularly Faye and her yellow eyes). As far as YA covers go, these at least try to reflect the books – a circle motif, characters who appear as the book describes, and the Circle in the background.

The Deal:

Cassie Blake is a sixteen year old girl from Reseda, California, vacationing on the East Coast. Just as she’s reached her limit with the snobbish Portia, who seems to disdain Cassie (yet likes the captive audience), her mother informs Cassie that they will be moving to New Salem, Massachusetts, to take care of Cassie’s grandmother. Now. Right now.

Things don’t go so well for Cassie in New Salem. She can’t figure out why people seem alternately fascinated and frightened by her, she can’t make any new friends, and someone is sending her a pretty clear message by leaving hanged dolls in her locker. Turns out that everyone thinks Cassie is a witch – just because she lives on Crowhaven Road, where all the other Circle members (the birthplace of a long history of witchcraft) reside.

Throughout the original series, Cassie fights to secure a place in the Circle, to endure blackmail from at least one member, against her forbidden attraction to Adam, her best friend’s boyfriend, and to protect the town, the Circle, and herself from the powerful witch Black John.

BFF Charm: Eventually

BFF Charm with a sweatband on

At first, Cassie is kind of an annoying, mealy-mouthed wimp – constantly on the verge of tears, and unable to cope. (I could totally relate to her tendency to think of the perfect retort hours later, though.) As the books go on, she undergoes significant character development. By the end of The Power, I identified much more strongly with her, and would be proud to call her my friend.

Swoonworthy Scale: 9

Adam Conant – and, mind you, not the pale TV imitation of the character – is my original fictional crush. Tall, redheaded, and nice – with a dangerous, don’t-fuck-with-me edge – he is exactly the kind of real person you’d want to date. He’s noble without being a “Nice Guy,” with just enough darkness under the surface to keep him interesting. 

Oh, and Nick is nothing to sneeze at, either – he’s the “bad boy” of the circle, but more sullen than actually bad.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that at this age, I also have inappropriate thoughts about the Henderson twins.

Best of all, L.J. Smith was always great at writing love scenes – nothing explicit or inappropriate for teens, yet I distinctly remember thinking “HOT. DAMN.” As an adult, reading back through The Secret Circle and The Vampire Diaries, I realize there are a lot of subtle hints at something more. It’s a very rare book that makes me feel all tingly inside, but these still do it for me. Sometimes the mystery is more compelling than the explicit.

Talky Talk: Sky and Sea, Keep Harm From Me

Surprisingly enough, although these books are dated in certain aspects, the language holds up. I think Smith’s avoidance of excessive slang has helped here. The characters are definitely more elegant than your average teenagers, but that was part of why I loved the books so much – a world where you weren’t likely to have your bra snapped or be called nasty pejoratives sounded great to me. Even if witch-hunting were a legitimate pastime.

Further, although there’s a certain amount of poetry in the books, it’s not the flowery dramatic crap that makes me wince. Score another one for Ms. Smith.

Bonus Factor: Witchcraft!

The four teenage witches from The Craft

Who didn’t go through a phase in which they wished they could control the world around them? It’s such a great metaphor/solution for being a teenager, and these books, as far as I recall, were fairly well-grounded in Wiccan principles.

Casting Call:

Casting TSC is HARD, you guys. I’ve had a specific image in my head for nearly twenty years. Reality is nothing compared to the Adam in my head! Do you have ideas? A dream cast of your own?

Relationship Status: First Love

These books will always hold a special place in my heart as my very first L.J. Smith books, which I still re-read every other year or so. I owe my large collection of moonstone jewelry to this series, and the fact that I married someone named Adam amuses me to no end. I love these books, flawed as they can be, and always will. This, of course, is why I am so incredibly bitter that the CW series absolutely sucked.

FTC Full Disclosure: I bought my own copies 15-20 years ago. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one. The Secret Circle is available now.