Let The Right One In, also known by its American title Let Me In, is a vampire novel by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Two film adaptations have been made since its release, the original Swedish film titled Let The Right One In and an American remake, Let Me In. Both films were critical and financial successes, and I enjoyed both of them.
Let The Right One In centers around the story of Oskar, a boy who is bullied by his classmates and spends his free time entertaining fantasies of killing his abusers. But Oskar’s life is changed when a strange girl named Eli moves into the apartment next to his and encourages him to fight back. Eli’s odd behavior begins to complicate their relationship as they grow close, and Oskar is soon forced to confront the reality that she isn’t human.
A vampire novel that actually feels like a vampire novel
Vampire fiction has deviated into a multitude of interesting new directions in recent years, but Let The Right One In strikes a nearly perfect balance between traditional vampire mythology and original material. Whether you like Lindqvist’s take on vampires or not, it’s hard to deny that he writes a vampire novel that really feels like a vampire novel. He fully embraces the filth of vampirism—Eli never washes, wears clothes that she finds in the trash, and smells like rotting meat. Lindqvist doesn’t polish her description; Eli isn’t presented as attractive in any way, and it’s refreshing to read about a vampire that’s genuinely revolting.
The scenes that focus on the vampire attacks are some of the best in the novel. Lindqvist does a fantastic job of layering on dramatic tension when Eli preys on her victims; you can practically feel the beat of the victim’s heart, the hotness of their blood, the bite of Eli’s teeth. These scenes are gritty, tense and terrifying, and they work beautifully. They also create an extremely effective atmosphere when Lindqvist introduces us to the intricacies of Eli’s vampirism, lending a depth and realism to Eli’s flaws and weaknesses that would otherwise be missing.
Unlikeable (but realistic) characters
Almost every character in Let The Right One In is despicable in one way or another. Oskar is unashamedly obsessed with the idea of slaughtering the boys who bully him (he even detachedly speculates early in the novel that he will grow up to be a serial killer), Eli kills innocent people and drinks their blood, and other characters are drunks, pedophiles, and murderers. No one is truly admirable or honorable, and it feels real. Lindqvist recognizes that all people are naturally corrupt or flawed in some way, and he does a remarkable job capturing this aspect of humanity.
An uneven format
My only real complaint with Let The Right One In lies purely in Lindqvist’s presentation of his story. He follows the perspectives of numerous characters, occasionally interjecting a purely narrative segment to introduce a setting or set up an event. The narrative interjections are awkward, sparse enough that they feel out of place, and never really add anything to the story. Lindqvist also doesn’t feel the need to limit his viewpoints either; he skips around between well over a dozen characters, many of them so minor that they are given only a single scene; a viewpoint is even bestowed upon a squirrel for a page or so. Lindqvist changes viewpoints often, sometimes more than once per page, and this frequent skipping around between characters was jarring and kept me from really sinking into the story. I couldn’t quite understand the reasoning behind having so many viewpoints; it came across as lazy storytelling and eventually began to annoy me to the point where I was distracted from the actual story. The story could have been told just as effectively if Lindqvist had simply chosen a few major viewpoint characters and stuck with them throughout the entire novel.
Why should you read this book?
Let The Right One In is a genuinely awesome vampire novel, and a must-read if you enjoy supernatural horror. It’s a brutal, chilling novel filled with moments that are disturbing, exciting, and sometimes even very sweet. Find a copy of Let The Right One In, and when you’re finished with the book, I recommend treating yourself to both film adaptations.
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