Review: Let the Right One In

Let the Right One InLet the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m sort of obsessed with this book and the two movies based on it. This was the first time I’ve read the book after discovering the films last year. It’s not about a cute little vampire girl. On the contrary! It’s about how a child vampire might deal with her curse. I’m reminded of the little girl, Claudia, in Interview with the Vampire (portrayed by a young Kirsten Dunst in the film). How might she have fared without Louis or Lestat nearby? She comes to an untimely end anyway, even with their help.
Eli–Elias–is a 220-year old child vampire. Like Claudia, Eli is permanently stuck at the age she was when infected. In Eli’s case, it’s 12 years old, more or less. Her backstory is filled in with foggy obscurity but we at least learn a bit of what happened to her. She has always lived in Stockholm, describes landmarks that have changed. The setting is the early 80s. There’s more provided that I’ll not reveal.

let the right one inHer adult provider, Håkan, the “Ritual Killer,” has a very different end than the one portrayed in both films. Most of the other characters are more or less as portrayed, though. It is interesting that the American film, “Let Me In”, implied that the old man was once a child Eli’s age, like Oskar (via an old b&w photo). That’s not the case. While Eli might have befriended a child boy in the past, that was not Håkan in the photo as a boy.

The novel has him meet Eli as an adult–a pedophiliac adult who is released from prison for good behavior and immediately begins to prey on boys again. Eli approaches him, not the other way around, perhaps sensing his perversion as a way to manipulate him. I must admit, that was my first thought too, and it makes sense, given the ending of the film, that Håkan was once a beloved friend like Oskar. Not true. Kind of a surprise that he was not.

Here is the source for the title to this novel and the sequel: Let the Old Dreams Die (on my reading short-list)–a song by Morrissey called “Let The Right One Slip In”:

Let-the-Right-One-In-2009-001There are disturbing scenes of sexual predation from a pedophile, including a bathroom stall scene with a boy, that might be too difficult for some. Predation but no graphic sex or abuse is implied or described. I didn’t mind it, since the character in question was chosen by the vampire child and goes through karmic retribution, not necessarily for the benefit of the reader, not in a satisfying way, but one can’t help but sense “what goes around…”. I’ll say no more in the interest of spoilage.

This story is ultimately a love story while the vampire stuff is the scenery, the backdrop. Love of the best kind, between children, before sexuality enters the picture. That is the sort of love I find most satisfying in a story, more so than any other kind, because it is genuine, not based on manipulation or games or neurotic emotions like jealousy or any other adult dysfunctions.

Knowing that there is a short story sequel in Let the Old Dreams Die, I am surprised and eager to read it, of course, but wonder why the author didn’t write a sequel for such a hot property. Perhaps he will some day. I would like to read more about Eli and Oskar.

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