Book Review: Let Me In

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Let Me In
(New English release title: Let the Right One In)

by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Vampire lore has suffered an unintended devolution from horror to comedy over recent years, and bookshelves have no space for additional stock-quality vampire novels.  Thankfully, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s first novel is anything but what has come before.  Let Me In, the source for the critically acclaimed movie Let the Right One In, is equal parts horror and romance, if not exactly where expected.

letmein_bookthumbOskar, a friendless boy living with his mother in an all-too-common nowhere, is struggling to deal with life as the target of his classmates’ cruelty.  His role makes the unending loop between invisible boy and scapegoat until he meets Eli, the odd and inquisitive girl who moves into the apartment next to his.  As he and Eli develop a tentative friendship, Oskar slowly realizes what she is, and he begins to understand that there are worse things than not being human.

The story may be familiar, but it is the simultaneous innocence and wisdom of its young characters that makes Let Me In so casually heartwrenching.  The ease with which Oskar accepts Eli as a vampire is only the first of many compromises as they find ways to make their need for each other more important than their differences. 

While only mildly grotesque in terms of anything expected of vampire lore, Let Me In will still turn more delicate stomachs.  The book’s exploration of human darkness through sadism, pedophilia, and disfigurement will leave more than a few mainstream readers appalled.

Let Me In sacrifices plausibility for horror in places, but it is a fault of any book in the genre. The prose is quick and occasionally stunted, but whether this is by Lindqvist’s design or translator Ebba Segerberg’s taste for brevity is a topic for debate.

Where Lindqvist excels — and what makes Let Me In so unlike its peers –  is his knowing handling of his characters.  It is Lindqvist’s multi-faceted portrayal of human cruelty that makes such a miracle of Eli’s appearance in Oskar’s life.  Theirs is an impossible love and, for all Anne Rice’s tomes on the subject of vampiric angst, Oskar and Eli manage to make theirs uncomplicated — and still hauntingly sweet. Let Me In is the vampire novel that we hadn’t realized we needed.

Excerpt (p. 39):

“Aren’t you cold?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

The girl frowned, wrinkling up her face, and for a moment she looked much much older than she was.  Like an old woman about to cry.

“I guess I’ve forgotten how to.”

let me in book review let the right one in book review John Ajvide Lindqvist

Rating: A-

[Amazon]

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~ by AyDee on March 9, 2009.

2 Responses to “Book Review: Let Me In”

  1. I just finished this book and yours is the best review (as well as the most thorough) I’ve stumbled upon so far. It was really a fantastic read, from start to finish and you’ve reviewed it well. Thanks for the great post!

  2. ive just watched the movie (2010 ONE) and i have to read the book NOW!

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