May 29, 2010

REVIEW Let The Right One In

John Ajvide Lindquist 
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1847248489
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847248480
  • Source: borrowed from a personal library
  • My rating: 3.5/5
Summary: Oskar and Eli. In very different ways, they were both victims. Which is why, against the odds, they became friends. And how they came to depend on one another, for life itself. 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. John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel, a huge bestseller in his native Sweden, is a unique and brilliant fusion of social novel and vampire legend; and a deeply moving fable about rejection, friendship and loyalty.

    Have you ever read a book that pushed it so far that you actually started to think, "How sick am I for reading this?" More than once while reading Let The Right One In did that thought cross my mind. Yet I swallowed it in two sittings (I swear it would be one if I had had more time) and no, I don't feel sick anymore. Just...heartbroken. In a positive way.

    One of the first things I noticed is Lindquist's amazing character development.  Lindquist ingeniously enters the mind of a bullied boy who is deeply suffering not only because of some other kid's aggression, but much more because of his own passivity to strike back. I couldn't help but ask myself whether the author himself had been bullied in his childhood. With few words and much showing, he captures the burden of being the eternal target. The moment when Oskar stops running and strikes back filled me with adrenaline, I felt the relief and superiority that Oskar felt in that moment.

    The character that stole a piece of my heart is Eli. Lindquist doesn't make much effort to hide what she really is; it's plain obvious from the moment she enters the stage that there's something utterly wrong about that small girl, so it's not a big spoiler if I say that she's a two-hundred year old vampire. What I absolutely HATE when I read a novel about vampires is when I'm told how cursed, how tragic, oh, how ugly being a vampire is. I was never completely happy with the explanation given . This is what I can't praise Lindquist enough for. Eli's tragedy is clearly shown in every word, every glance. Lindquist created a vampire that freezes your blood and at the same time you want to embrace, hush and take care of. Eli, as sweet as she is, is a blood-thirsty monster; ask her victims.The big twist comes close to the end of the novel. And once again, your guts will revolt, your mind object, but for no avail. You know you WANT to read this. It's hard to put to words where the actual tragedy of Eli lies; she feels the human need for a touch, for love, but she is painfully aware that it's nearly impossible. It's heartbreaking to watch her reaching out, saying "Love me for me, look beyond the surface." An along comes Oskar... The romance that develops between Oskar and Eli is sweet and innocent; two deeply flawed 12-year-olds who meet at the playground, solve the Rubik's cube together, tap messages on the wall in Morse code. For a moment it is easy to forget the monstrous side of her. There is also a whole array of other characters who make the Stockholm suburban way of life palpable; people with good intentions, but without an aim and purpose. 

    However, I was deeply disturbed with some tweaks in the plot near the end of the novel. Unintentionally, Eli creates a vampire who was already half-dead before she bit him, and then it takes forever to finally solve that situation. Think body parts falling off, smashing his head gazillion times, and he still moves; it's not adding much to the story, just prolonging the finale. I was already beginning to scream "For God's sake, would you die already!" I'm not quite sure if he even did.

    I saw the movie few days ago. Most of the supporting characters had been cut out from the screenplay. The constant switch of perspectives in the book was at moments confusing and distracting. I believe that, if they were kept in the movie, the real point would have been missed. By putting the spotlight on Eli and Oskar, the movie managed to obtain the core idea of the book, much to my content.

    I don't have much to say about the writing; not bad, but not outstanding either. I've certainly read better. Let The Right One In is a compelling read that will, more than once, make you sick and disgusted. If you're a fan of vampire books, Let The Right One In is compulsory literature for you.
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