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Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

By Carrie | Books | August 14, 2009 |

By Carrie | Books | August 14, 2009 |

Set in Sweden in the early 80s, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s book tells the story of Oskar, a 12-year-old boy who is lonely and bullied and prone to wetting himself. When Eli, a girl he assumes is around his age, moves in next door, he finally finds a friend. They tap messages to each other through the wall in Morse code, they play together, and through his friendship with Eli, Oskar starts to stand up for himself.

Of course, all is not what it seems (in more ways than one), as Eli is a 200 year old vampire, forever condemned to live as a child, but not a child. She has a helper named Hakan who kills people and drains their blood for her, but it is not long before their presence in the town starts to raise suspicions. Other characters are drawn into Oskar and Eli’s world - the bullies, the police, a group of friends missing one of their number, and a newborn vampire coming to terms with what they are.

Part coming of age tale, part gruesome horror, it’s also a social commentary of the city at the time, and shows characters dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, and crime. It’s pretty ambitious, and it mostly delivers, although there’s still something missing for me, and I’m not sure what it is. I think I was expecting more from it, as I’d heard such good things. I thought I’d find it haunting, and much more moving. It was an enjoyable read, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure how well it straddled its worlds. Oskar and Eli’s relationship has some touching moments, but their friendship felt a little shallow to me. As for the horror, there’s plenty of that. It’s gory and descriptive and it’s probably wise if you don’t eat while reading, because it really put me off my lunch. Which I guess is a compliment.

However, it wasn’t as suspenseful as I would have liked. Horrible, and vivid sure, but I never had that sense of dread about what was to come. And I never felt fear for Oskar. I felt sorry for him, with what he went through, and at times frustrated by him for not standing up for himself more, but there was no sense of urgency to it, which I missed. The vampire lore is pretty standard, but has enough twists to keep it fresh. It doesn’t go into too much detail about Eli’s past, and I would have liked more on that, although I can see it’s not meant to be the focus of the story. Eli’s life as a vampire throws up more questions than there are answers, but at least it’s thought provoking.

I guess if you’re looking for a fresh take on the vampire story, you could do much worse than read this. In this day when you can’t move without tripping over something to do with Twilight, it’s nice to have a grown up alternative. I haven’t seen the film of Let the Right One In yet, although I’ve heard good things, but I’ll definitely watch it at some point, though not for a while so the book isn’t as fresh in my head.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Carrie’s reviews, check her blog, Teabelly’s Place.

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