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Let the Right One in - John Ajvide Lindqvist
Member Name: burtybookworm
Let the Right One in - John Ajvide Lindqvist
Date: 04/05/10, updated on 05/05/10 (56 review reads)
Advantages: atmospheric, hard hitting subject matter, very creepy
Disadvantages: too many characters, often confusing and the story is just too dragged out
Written by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist in 2004, "Let The Right One In" tells the story of 12 year old boy Oskar and a centuries old vampire called Eli who is still physically a child herself. Oskar lives along with his mother and is a loner who is bullied at school and is too terrified of his attackers to fight back. His only joy in life is a morbid fascination with local and national murders where he keeps a scrap book of all the details that have been reported on. Then one day Eli moves nearby with her "father" Hakan, and he and Eli begin a unique friendship. It isn't long before Oskar realises that the bodies that keep being found drained of blood are to do with Eli and that she is in fact a vampire!
Its hard really to write a good summary of this book because it touches upon so many different subjects throughout the book but essentially it is about the relationship between Eli and Oskar and how Eli helps Oskar overcome his fears and insecurities. However, this story is a book that is definitely adults only, as there are some subjects that are fairly hard hitting and the author does not shy away from creating a shocking storyline for the reader. There are several instances that I can think of throughout the book that are fairly shocking but one storyline in particular is fairly hard hitting. This particular storyline involves Eli's "father" - not her father, but a human man whom she meets as she needs someone to look after her. Hakan is an ex teacher who is a paedophile and some of the chapters involving Hakan are really quite disturbing.
In fact, the book itself has a very dark quality; it's very atmospheric, the author portraying a very sinister world of 1980's Stokholm. Unlike most vampire novels, the tension, subject matter and atmosphere completely suit the genre.
However, it really did take me a while to get into the story and really "take" to the characters. Before Eli is introducted into the story, the story begins with Oskars lonely life where a bunch of bullies regularly humiliate him and use various mental and physical forms of abuse to get to Oskar. Far from being sympathetic towards Oskar's plight, I felt irritated at the way he dealt with the bullies and also a bit sickened by his fascination with all the murders. For me, it was plain to see how psychopaths and murderers come in to being with how his childhood was turning out, but still my sympathy was missing!
Although the story picked up pace half way through the book, the introduction to several new characters and various Swedish names had me quite confused at times and I had to quite often re-read sections of the book. I wanted the story to stay focussed on Eli and Oskar, but the book also had a second lot of characters, a group of men and one woman. Although I saw the point in this storyline as it linked to the vampire activity, I just didn't find it as interesting and I often found myself impatiently skimming these sections.
I would have also liked to have learnt more about Eli and felt that the story was often wasted by telling it from Oskars point of view. Eli, a child vampire who has been around for many hundreds of years, was fascinating to me, and apart from glimpses of her past that we see through eyes of Oskar (she is able to share her past experiences with him through touch), I didn't feel like I saw enough of her very different and long history.
The end of the book was a bit of a mystery to me too. Throughout the book I wasn't quite sure where everything was going to lead and even after finishing the book I was confused with what happened, and especially what happened to Hakan. I didn't feel that enough was explained and I felt the author could've spent more time focussing on the main characters to get a better understanding of them. Although I didn't dislike the book as such, It didn't quite convince me it was an excellent story to be recommended. Despite that, I would have to give it full points for the dark and atmospheric way the story was told which was totally in keeping with the genre. This part of Stokholm is depicted as a sad and dark place full of aimless people who seem to lead pointless and lonely lives - a perfect setting for a child vampire and its adult human companion. Vampires are supposed to be creepy and slightly evil and I felt that this was the most successful part of the book, as well as creating a creepy little vampire child, the author also made Eli sort of likeable or at least a vampire whom we could understand. I know this has been made into a (very successful) film - reading about some of the touchy subject matter involved is bad enough, but watching it on the big screen would be too much for me to stomach.
For a truly chilling an sinister vampire book, this one really hits the spot, but there are too many lows before getting to the punch for me to really recommend it.
Summary: chilling but not brilliant!