Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Let The Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist

Living with his single mother in the Swedish suburb of Blackeberg, twelve-year-old Oskar Eriksson’s life revolves around going to school- where he is bullied by a group of thugs led by Jonny Forsberg- and spending time alone around the dreary housing estate he calls home. With no friends his own age, an odd fascination with murderers, and an incontinence problem, Oskar seems destined to forever be a loner. That is, until he meets Eli, a strange young girl who lives next door, seems to have no aversion to the winter cold and whom he only sees at night. The two soon form a tentative friendship, bonded by the fact that both are victims of different circumstances.
When a teenage boy is found murdered in the nearby town of Vällingby, his body drained of blood, panic strikes the heart of Blackeberg and the surrounding towns.
As more bodies begin to pile up, there are fears that the killer, dubbed the Vällingby Murderer by the media, is on a serial-killing frenzy.
Oskar holds a gruesome interest in the developing story, and soon begins to piece together some disturbing facts about his new neighbour and friend.
Why does he never see her during the day and why are her apartment windows blacked out? Why does she sometimes seem wise beyond her years? Why does she sometimes appear to look like an old woman, and the next day look as fresh and sweet as ever?
But Oskar’s digging soon finds him learning more than he ever wanted to know about Eli. Will what Oskar learns turn him from the only happiness he has ever really known? Or will he keep Eli’s terrible secret and stay loyal and true to his mysterious, and deadly, friend?

What I gained from reading this book:
This novel is essentially about victimisation. Oskar is bullied from the outset- teased and harassed by Jonny and his friends, Tomas and Micke. Eli’s victimisation is different but still causes her just as much pain as is inflicted upon Oskar- she is over 200 years old, trapped in the body of a child and has to live with the guilt of killing innocent people, drinking their blood to survive. Eli has also experienced a devastatingly brutal past, which has completely shaped her life as a vampire. Even some of the older characters experience feelings of distress brought about by negative circumstances. Oskar’s mother does the best she can, but clearly struggles as a single parent, while Håkan, Eli’s ‘father’, is a victim of his own weaknesses. Although not all the characters are victims of bullying, many still struggle to get on with their lives, and this novel reminds readers that although life may be tough to deal with sometimes, it usually does improve with time. Oskar’s experiences also show readers that if they fight back and stand up for themselves, justice will prevail in the end.

While reading the novel, I had a clear view in my mind of what each of the characters looked like, thanks to Lindqvist’s descriptive language. Admittedly, I saw the film before I read the book, and so this could have some bearing on the way that I imagined the characters, but if that’s the case, then the casting of the film was exceptional! The strengths and weaknesses of each person are explored in the novel, and most of this translates nicely into celluloid. But like all films that are adapted from books, there are key scenes that have been cut (for timing reasons), which add to the depth of the story, and can only be explored when you read the novel.

Some of the subject matter in the novel could be disturbing for some readers. Themes including child prostitution, sodomy, paedophilia and murder pervade the text, and help to form the characterisation of some of the people in the novel. This could be considered a ‘serious’ vampire novel (ie. not a fluffy teen romance like the Twilight saga or some of the other vampire novels around at the moment). Believe me when I say that this book is not for the faint-hearted.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Genre: Horror

Recommended for: People who have seen the excellent Swedish film, and want to read the novel that spawned it.

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:

Let the Right One in

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