Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Translator: Ebba Segerberg
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Warning: Mature audience
If you had to define Oskar in one word, you’d probably pick something like “pathetic”. Even he knows it; the other kids at his school definitely know it and take full advantage. Mostly, Oskar keeps to himself, making believe he’s someone with more power, more skill than he really has. Until one night, out at the jungle gym, he meets an intriguing girl by the name of Eli. She’s like no one he’s ever met before: smart, mysterious, making him want to be more than he is. And knowing Eli changes Oskar in ways he never expected. Meanwhile, the entire, well-ordered community is abuzz with horror at some “ritual killer” who’s been going around committing macabre, unexplained murders. And Oskar’s view of the world begins to unravel as he gains suspicions that this ritual murderer is somehow linked to the girl he’s coming to care about and rely upon.
Wow. I have to say that Let the Right One In is a pretty incredible book. First, let me get this out there: this book contains sexually explicit content, attempted rape, pedophilia, alcoholism, drugs, language, violence, murder–it’s solidly an R-rated story, so don’t read it unless you’re an adult and you’re prepared for that. But . . . it was a great story in spite of all that. I have to admit that, for maybe the first chapter, I totally wasn’t sold. I didn’t like the characters, and I really didn’t see where the story was going. But once I pushed past that and got to where things started moving, I was utterly sucked in. The balance of horror and pathos is perfect–a minuscule step to either side, and it would collapse, but as-is, it works beautifully. The pacing is a little slower than I’m used to for a “horror” or “thriller” story; it reminds me more of, say, Stephen King’s writing in that regard, like the build-up in Carrie, for instance. And even though this is a “vampire story”, it totally doesn’t swing into the realms of contemporary vampire writing at all–it holds the classic Dracula mythos while adding its own set of unique details to the blend. This book’s use of multiple different perspectives, while it can get a bit old, actually works quite well, showing the interlinking of various individuals’ stories in the bigger picture to great effect. But I have to admit, the part I was most drawn to was definitely Oskar and Eli’s story, particularly the way these two grew together and grew as individuals after meeting each other. Which isn’t to say their relationship is a goody-goody “be a better person” sort of relationship at all; they’re neither of them great examples of morality. But maybe that is also a part of their draw to the reader. . . . In any case, for those mature readers who enjoy a chilling, detailed story with a bit of a fantasy/horror flair, Let the Right One In would be an excellent choice to try.