Thursday, 23 July 2009

Review: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Title: Let the Right One In

Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Year: 2004

Rating: 5/5

Plot: Oskar is a 12-year-old boy living with his mother on a dreary housing estate at the city's edge. He dreams about his absentee father, gets bullied at school, and wets himself when he's frightened.

Eli is the young girl who moves in next door. She doesn't go to school and never leaves the flat by day. She is a 200-year-old vampire, forever frozen in childhood, and condemned to live on a diet of fresh blood.

(Taken from the back of John Ajvide Lindqvist, 2008, Let the Right One In, Great Britain: Clays Ltd.)

Review: This is going to be another review I'll have trouble writing because I enjoyed this ... a lot. With all the Twilight/Sookie whatsherface vamp books and writers turning Mr Darcy into the undead creature, it's refreshing to find an author who has managed to take an overused figure and create a truly original story and new take on it.

The plot above doesn't give the book half the credit it's worth. What began as something I found quite slow and hard to get into soon turned into a page turner that I found difficult to put down. While the aforementioned Oskar is our main protagonist, Let the Right One In focuses on how a single person can affect an entire community. From the school teachers to the bullies, from the police officers to the bums on the bar stools, Lindqvist manages to bring realism and depth to every single character featured, no matter how small their role is.

The most interesting aspect to all the characters? None of them are perfect. No-one is a hero. No-one goes out of their way to be likeable. While it may seem bold for an author to do this, I admire this choice as it presents true realism. No human is perfect so why should these characters be? It makes horrible situations that much scarier if we know that these characters are just like us.

Oskar is a great central character who goes through many changes in the book. Starting out as the wimpy kid of the school, getting bullied on a daily basis and forever showing his weaknesses, you can't help but notice the change in his mind as his meetings with Eli increase. Though he's still just a frightened and lonely 11-year-old on the outside, on the inside he's finding the strength through Eli to take charge of the situations and be comfortable with who he is.

A character I adored and would love to see a spin off book based on what happened to him after the events of Let the Right One In is Tommy. Tommy is the 'cool kid' neighbour Oskar looks up to; the rebellious teenager who hands out with his friends, sniffs glue, steals, and makes his mother's life a misery for dating a gun-toting, Christian police officer. I can't speak too much about Tommy's role in this book without giving everything away but let's just say that after the ordeal he goes through, you want to know much more about him. Much, much more. I demand elaboration on this character, Lindqvist!

It's hard to explain what makes this story so different. I think it's the tone Lindqvist uses: a certain Stephen King style, but not. But, as I've said, it's the characters that really make this story what it is. None of them are bland or one-dimensional. There's a real history behind each and every one (and there's quite a few!) and that is how the story manages to carry itself.

This book really takes you through the motions - it's dark but humourous, full of nitty gritty details that'll shock and scare you. One thing I must mention is that if you have a weak stomach, it's probably best you avoid this. Last time something other than illness made me feel queasy was when I went to see Hard Candy (2005) at the cinema. Lindqvist's descriptions of abuse, dismorphia, and supernatural transformation are not for the faint of heart. Like I said, the writing really gets under the skin of the characters so you do not want to be eating lunch while reading this.

Thank you to my ying, Rhi, for recommending this book to me. I can see why this is one of your favourites - it was an amazing read. I'm even looking up the author to see how I can get a hold of any more of his work. Top marks for this one for a fabulous spin on an old genre. Brilliantly written and great third-dimensional characters.

About the author: John Lindqvist is a Swedish author, born in 1968, who grew up in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm. He wanted to become something awful and fantastic. First he became a conjuror and came in second in the Nordic card trick championship. Then he was a stand-up comedian for 12 years. He has written great parts of the TV series Reuter & Skoog as well as stage plays and TV drama. Let The Right One In is his first novel. (Taken fromthe author's profile on  


Lauren said...

This is an excellent review! I agree 100% that it's a nice escape from the Twilight/Sookie world where vampires are nice and sweet, not so much scary as they typically are. My boyfriend saw the movie and really enjoyed it. (I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror films. Sad, I know). Did you hear that they're now making an Americanized version of the film/book?

Ceri said...

Thank you, Lauren :-)

I can't wait to see the film. And, yeah, I heard they were Americanising it - I don't know how I feel about that because it's such a 'Hollywood' way to do things. I might be biased but I always imagined if they made it into an English speaking film, it would be set in Britain - There's something about where Oskar lives in the poor estate buildings that reminds me of the working-class areas here.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

Fantastic review! I've almost finished reading this book and I love it. The writing, the originality and the choice of location are all terrific.

The Bookworm said...

oh wow, this sounds excellent! i'm adding it to my TBR.
great review!

Ceri said...

Joanne - Thank you very much. I'm a big fan of your blog so that compliment meant a lot. I hope you decide to write a review about it - I can't wait to hear your opinion.

Naida - It's definitely worth adding to your TBR. I really hope you enjoy it.