Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Mar 1, 2011
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:compelling main story, compelling characters

Cons:subplots may be less than interesting to some, violence might be upsetting

The Bottom Line: A compelling story about an unusual friendship with a refreshing approach to the vampire theme.

With all the Twilight, Laurell Hamilton, Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris books, people usually expect a vampire novel to be about sexy vampires, maybe moaning about how dangerous and tormented on the inside they are, maybe not. Let the Right One In by the Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist is something quite different.

All right, there is a young human – twelve year old Oskar – falling for a girl (Eli) who turns out to be a vampire (and not quite a girl). But she's not sexy (she looks like she's about twelve too, so it would be quite disturbing to have her described as sexy), actually, she seems weird, she smells really bad, her clothes (only pants and a sweater, even though it's freezing outside) don't seem clean... And they will not become lovers. And, while Eli is very careful not to turn people into vampires, she doesn't act like her soul is in torment, doesn't moan about things, she just seems like a weird, lonely kid.

The main plot is about Oskar and Eli, how the two of them met after Eli became Oskar's neighbor (it turns out their rooms share the same wall, so they tap messages in Morse code to each other), how the weird lonely girl who told him immediately they could never be friends did become his friend, started to take baths on regular basis, started to laugh and enjoy company, how the constantly bullied boy with an incontinence problem started to develop self-confidence, and where their relationship took them.

There's a plenty of subplots too, about Oskar's ruined family, about a serial killer on the loose, the boys who keep bullying Oskar, some other boys Oskar knows, the local group of drunk losers... All the subplots have the reason to exist, although some might find them annoying because the main plot and the main characters are so compelling you want to keep reading about them; even seemingly minor things about some local losers will affect Oskar and Eli.

While the main characters are a twelve-year-old boy and a girl who looks as if she was twelve, it shouldn't fool potential readers; this book is also about some social problems, there are some cruelly murdered people, the main character is humiliated and bullied several times, there's a scene of an attempted rape of Eli, there's a scene with a twelve-year-old prostitute boy whose teeth have been pulled out so he'd be better at oral sex performance... While there are no long, graphic descriptions of violence, while there's no gore for gore's sake, there's no sugar-coating either, and it hits the reader hard.

Overall, Let the Right One In is a compelling read about the main characters you really care for and wish them well (please keep in mind it's quite an accomplishment to make a reader wish well to a murderous vampire – leaving humans alive after feeding on them is not an option here, because those humans would turn into vampires within days). The subplots may seem a bit slow, but in the end it all fits into place, and the somewhat open ending makes the reader wish for more.

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