Let The Right One In
John Ajvide Lindqvist
Published 2007 513 pages
Summary (from the book cover)
Oskar and Eli. In very different ways, they were both victims. Which is why, against the odds, they became friends.
And how they came to depend on one another, for life itself.
Oskar is a 12 year old boy living with his mother on a dreary housing estate at the city’s edge. He dreams about his absentee father, gets bullied at school, and wets himself when he’s frightened.
Eli is the young girl who moves in next door. She doesn’t go to school and never leaves the flat by day. She is a 200 year old vampire, forever frozen in childhood, and condemned to live on a diet of fresh blood.
John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Let The Right One In, was a bestseller in his native Sweden, now translated (by Ebba Segerberg) into English it is available for readers in both the UK and the US. Confusingly the UK and US versions are published under two different titles, with the American version of this novel entitled “Let Me In” rather than “Let The Right One In.”
Let The Right One In is an unusual blend of social novel and vampire horror. Set in the early 1980s in a depressed suburb of Stockholm it makes for bleak, yet compelling, reading. Every character seems to have a dreary existence, where the boredom is only alleviated by alcohol, drugs, glue-sniffing or shop lifting and petty theft depending on the characters' personal preference. Even Eli (the vampire) has a dreary existence, except that occasionally she gets to go out and kill someone for blood, but even this more of a chore than an exciting interlude for her.
Oskar is terribly bullied at school and this makes for some uncomfortable reading. The petty cruelties inflected upon him by the bullies have isolated him from children his own age, and this is why he makes friends with Eli, another isolated outsider, so easily. Eli encourages Oskar to stand up to the bullies and fight back - but this only leads to escalating violence.
Possibly the most disturbing part of Let The Right One In is Håkan, the man who looks after Eli and procures blood for her. He is a paedophile and by turns a character that is both disgusting and pitiful. Eventually Håkan becomes a zombie paedophile which is disturbing on a whole new level. An undead zombie paedophile oozing corpse juice with a permanent hard-on is just nasty.
All the vampire clichés are thrown away with Let The Right One In. Eli never really talks about her life as a vampire and although she does share her memories of how she became a vampire with Oskar, these are very brief and raise more questions than they answer. Ultimately, this novel is more about the lives of the people living around the vampire than the vampire itself.
The violence in the novel is gory and shocking; probably it seems more shocking because of the mundane and dreary everyday setting of this book.
By turns brilliant and repulsive, compelling and uncomfortable Let The Right One In is a thought provoking read that will stay with you long after the novel itself has been read. Whether you want zombie paedophiles stuck in your imagination is for you to decide!
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