'The Secret Circle': A Summer Beach Read To Prepare For Fall's Witching Hour

The Secret CircleFor the last week of the summer season, and our last official Summer Beach Read, we're looking back to look forward. "The Vampire Diaries" author L.J. Smith published "The Secret Circle" in 1992, and in two weeks, the witchy tale joins "The Vampire Diaries" on The CW.

Like "TVD," the books are part of Alloy Entertainment's brilliant master plan to develop YA novels ripe for TV adaptation, and like "TVD" the show is co-created by Kevin Williamson. And also like the earlier adaptation, the plot is altered drastically for the show, but the key ingredients remain intact: a group of very relatable characters (with some very special traits) and a creepy mood designed to keep you awake at night.

We'll have plenty more on The CW's "Secret Circle," starring Britt Robertson, leading up to the September 15 premiere. But in the meantime, you can enter the slightly different world that inspired it.

While spending the summer surrounded by snobby New Englanders in Cape Cod, wide-eyed California teen Cassie meets a mysterious boy on the beach as he's running away from armed bullies. She feels an instant connection to him—the kind of love-at-first-sight, soul-mate connection L.J. Smith excels at—and helps him hide from his pursuers. In thanks, he gives her a good-luck piece to use if she's ever in danger. But she's sure she'll never see him again.

That lost love seems to be the least of her problems when her mother tells her they're not going home to California, but instead moving in with the ailing grandmother she's never met, on the small Massachusetts island town called New Salem. When she starts school in this new town, she goes through an even worse new-kid experience than the typical teen story: Most kids shun her when they find out she lives on Crowhaven Road; and those who also live on the street, led by the beautiful and cruel Faye, subject her to some wicked hazing. That is until senior Diana notices Cassie and takes her under her wing.

I won't spoil the scary circumstances that lead to Cassie's discovery that the group of frenemies in her neighborhood are actually descendants of the Salem witches—and on her mother's side, so is she. And you can probably guess that the mysterious boy returns to the scene too. Witchcraft and teen drama have always been a good match, especially when there's a murder mystery and some star-crossed love thrown into the mix.

The three novels of "The Secret Circle" (now published as two, two-part books), make for a super-fast read that will haunt your dreams. But a small warning to YA aficionados: Like "The Vampire Diaries," this is from an earlier era of young adult fiction, which tended to skew to a younger readership than today's books that appeal to grownups as much as teens. The language is simpler, and the characters' dilemmas are all immediate and surface-y, rather than angsty and deep. Then again, that's part of what makes this an ideal series to occupy one last weekend in the sun!

Have you read "The Secret Circle" books? Are you excited for The CW series? Tell us in the comments and on Twitter!