Friday, March 4, 2011

Let the Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist


I'd be the first one to stand up and proclaim that I'm sick of vampires. Not that I didn't enjoy some of the ride. I actually dug Anne Rice's broody, sexy vamps that lurked around New Orleans and wrestling with existence of God. But the ones with teen angst, the sparkly ones, the vegetarian ones, the vicious ones that were created by a virus...I'm sorta over all that. Let's move on.

But this book, which I won from James an eternity ago, just felt different. It's Swedish. The vampire is a little girl. My uber-movie critic sister said the movie rocked. The only thing that kept holding me back was the size of the book, but I was facing a total of 12 hours in a car for a road trip to the Keys, so away I went.

Synopsis: Oskar has not had an easy life. At 13, he is slightly overweight, his parents are divorced, he wets his pants, and has forever been a whipping boy of the school thugs. What he really needs is a friend, and finds one on a cold night on the playground behind his apartment building. She is a gangly, 12 year old girl who smells funny, doesn't know her birthday and has never celebrated it, and can't eat regular food. But she likes him, and she gives him the confidence to fight back against those that bully him.

At the same time, we are introduced to a group of friends who have nothing in common but the fact that they all are alcoholics and hang out at a local Chinese restaurant. One of the gang goes missing, and they all fear he has fallen prey to a serial murderer on the loose that hangs the victims by the feet and drains their blood. Soon they will become irreversibly invested in the evil that has gripped their community.
We also walk in the shoes of the serial murderer himself, are privy to his emotions, demons and motivations for his crimes. When he is captured red-handed (almost literally), he maims himself with acid to disguise his identity and protect his beloved. The depravity doesn't end there though, in fact fate has much more in store for this fellow.

Tiny spidery threads connect all of these characters in subtle ways, in chance circumstances, that will change their lives forever.

My thoughts: I'm not even sure I could fully list all the topics this book addresses, but would include bullying, first love, homosexuality, broken homes, the effects of alcoholism, friendship, loss of a parent, murder and pedophilia. It's all in there, gently stirred into this simmering pot of awesomeness. But at it's heart, this is a coming-of-age tale. Never mind that there is blood-sucking going on. That is just incidental.

The characters are gloriously developed. They are all strange in their own ways, flawed and human (scratch that, they aren't all human), and I found that I had visceral reaction towards them all. I was ready to do some serious damage to the bullies and Oskar's father, in fact I might even call myself enraged. And the rest of them, I just wanted them to rise up, to succeed, to be happy, to be at peace.

I had some confusion somewhere around the 2/3 point, where there was some question of the gender of our vampire. "She" suddenly became a "he" within the prose, and I didn't understand the backstory or the anatomy lesson. Well, whatever. "It" then.

I will warn those of you with weak stomachs that there is a bit of descriptive gore and visuals that were very vivid in my mind's eye. I didn't find any of it bad enough to keep me awake, but it drew out a few grimaces and exclamations of "oh jeez".

The ending wasn't necessarily pretty, but was satisfying as hell, and as I fist-pumped my way to the last page, I declared that THIS is what a vampire book should be.

What about the movie? There are two movies out there, one being the Swedish version with subtitles called "Let the Right One In", and a US version called "Let Me In" that should be out on DVD at this point. We watched the Swedish version, and it stayed relatively close to the plot of the book, barring the fact that entire story lines were left out. It had to be that way, else the movie would be four hours long. The movie is certainly worth watching, but is no substitute for the book.

4.5 out of 5 stars




21 comments:

Melody said...

Another book to move up my TBR pile!

Julie P. said...

I'm not a huge fan of vampire books, but it sounds like this one brings some new (and deeper) topic to the table.

C.B. James said...

As vampire books go, this might be the best one. You know I love both the book and the movie (Swedish one. Haven't seen the other.) The big fight in the movie just knocked my socks off. I hope we see more from this author.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think I will just go with reading your review on this one! :--)

caite said...

I am not sick of vampire novels...because I have never read one, no not even one. I do love Swedish mysteries, but not sure I am ready to break my vampire virginity..lol

Jeane said...

Hey, I've seen the movie- the Swedish version. I usually don't even like vampire movies, but this one was really good. I had no idea it was a book first- now I'm going to look for the book. I bet it's even better (than the film, they almost always are).

Willa said...

I really liked this book and the Swedish version of the film was cool, so dark and so not Twilight!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I really want to see the movie and had no idea it was a book! And I'm not sure what it is - any films, especially creepy ones, that are set in Sweden, or any other cold and snowy region, seems to pull me right in. And I don't mind vampires - even the sparkly ones! Although I prefer the written version of them and NOT the film version - too much sappy music amidst all the sparkle.

farmlanebooks said...

I want to read this, but I'm scared. I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror, but I'm reassured that you only mention gore and not things that jump out at you. Do you think my weak nature could cope with reading this or wil it keep me awake with nightmares?

bermudaonion said...

I'm glad you liked this one so much, but I'm not sure it's for me.

Darlene said...

I've never heard of this one but it sounds fantastic! I'm going to see if it's available for Kindle.

Trisha said...

Every time I think I'm over vampires, I read a review like this...and they suck me back in. :)

Zibilee said...

I have never heard of this book, but you are right, it doesn't sound lie your typical vampire novel, and all the plot aspects that you mention make this seem like a book that I definitely need to read. It does also seem to address a lot of issues as well, though like you, I am a little perplexed by the gender shifting vampire! Wonderful review, Sandy!

Kathleen said...

Sounds like a good one for when I want to read the book and and then see the movie.

Jenners said...

Sounds really freaky and scary and ... well, good! I don't know how I feel about the gender changing though. That would confuse me. And I'd probably do better reading this than watching the movie. I'm not good with scary movies at all.

Marce said...

I would have to say your review is my favourite of this book so far. I want to read it, I have it for my Halloween time reading.

I'm not into vampires but it sounds so good.

Jessica said...

I loved this one and I also loved the Swedish film as well, I thought certain scenes were done really well in the film.

Mark Kermode the UK film reviewer described the Swedish film as 'a story of friendship which just happens to have vampires in it' and the American version as 'a story about vampires which just happens to have a friendship in it'

heidenkind said...

That sounds really complicated. I think I'll check out the movie before I read the book, especially if the book is super-long.

The Bumbles said...

Incidental blood sucking! Haha. You crack me up.

Alice Teh said...

I liked this book. Some gory parts but overall good story.

Jeane said...

Ah, this was good. You've nailed it all. I felt pretty much the same way about this book, but you wrote it better! I saw the Swedish film too, before the book, and liked it a lot. I'm curious how the American film version differs, but not enough to go looking for it. Vampire movies aren't really my thing, after all.