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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Let the Right One In

Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Originally Published: 2004
Translation: 2007 by Ebba Segerberg
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press

The Story

Oskar is a twelve year old boy living with his mother in Stolkholm Sweden in the 1980’s. He is often the target of school bullies and likes to keep a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about murders.

When a new family moves into the apartment beside him, Oskar becomes thoroughly intrigued. The young girl only comes out at night, and there have been a rash of strange murders in the area that coincide with the family moving into the area. A few of the murders have caused the neighbourhood folks wondering what’s going on, and even though it’s irrational to believe they exist, start to wonder if there could possibly be a vampire behind these events.

The Response

THIS is the kind of vampire story I like. You know – scary. Oh, it really was creepy. So much so that I couldn’t read it before I went to bed, otherwise my imagination wouldn’t let me sleep. Vampires SHOULD be scary. Anyone who tells you otherwise should stop reading romanticized vampire books and take a look at folklore.

First of all, I am always so impressed when I read translated novels. For some reason, I always expect their flow to not work as well, but considering the fact that that isn’t the case in any of the translated books I’ve read, I should really change my expectations about that. This book flowed SO well, read so smoothly. And the atmosphere (which is, let’s face it, one of my favourite things about good vampire books) practically oozed out of the book – the atmosphere made this book so thoroughly enjoyable even before I started caring about what was going on in the story.

Aside from the atmosphere, what made this book super creepy was more of the humanity aspect of the novel. Especially when it looked at perversions of certain people in the story. It really explored why Eli’s “guardian” is sticking with Eli – which I don’t remember being explored in the movie at all, so I completely wasn’t expecting it. And I’m glad I wasn’t, because if I knew how much I would be exploring the brain of some dude who fancies twelve year olds, I probably would’ve thought twice about picking this up.

Anyway, moving on…

You know how some books have that “aha” moment where everything changes and you have to go back and reread everything leading up to it to see if there was any way at all that you might have guessed that that would have happened? I totally want to talk about what that “aha” moment was all about except if I do that it would totally ruin it for anyone who reads this and plans on reading the book and it’ such a CRAZY “aha” moment and wow. So I’ll just say that there was this killer moment that is going to make every future viewing of the movie and every future reading of the book make me look more at how certain characters act. And I want someone to discuss this moment with, so if anyone knows what I’m talking about, please let me know so I can get in touch with you and be all “dude, WTF!” about it.

On the topic of characters, they were all so well developed. At first, it seems like there are so many little subplots with completely different groups of people that have no interaction at all, but when things start coming together closer to the end, it shows how well the author planned out all of the characters and events, and everyone involved had an important purpose in the book. I was a little afraid at the beginning that I would lose track of who each of the people were, especially since they all have names that we don’t hear all the time in North America, but thankfully that wasn’t the case at all.

I have to say that the chemistry between Eli and Oskar of them was perfect. The pull that Eli had over Oskar was completely realistic – infatuation with the new and strange, the effect the relationship had on Oskar’s self esteem, the terror he felt when realizing Eli is a vampire, to the need to still be with the person who has become his best friend and love interest.

In fact, as far as realism goes, this was one of the more believable vampire novels I’ve read in a while. Yes, you have to suspend your grasp on reality slightly considering the fact that the book is about vampires, but there is no real moment that makes you go “wait a minute, that’s just totally weird and I don’t see how this is possible at all” until right near the end. Which was a little disappointing – reading about a membrane that Eli has that allows her to fly in the last couple of pages, when previously it doesn’t really talk at all (from what I can remember) about instances where Eli is flying.

And the ending of the book? Completely satisfactory. Typically, I’m not a fan of epilogues, but this one wasn’t cheesy, and actually tied things up in a way I was happy with.

The Bottom Line

All in all? Deliciously creepy! Highly recommended for people who enjoy creepy vampires.

Other Reviews

Love Vampires, Reading Matters, Book Monkey, Stuff as Dreams Are Made On. Have you reviewed this book on your blog? Let me know and I’ll add your link.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:01 am April 18, 2011.
Category: Speculative Fiction
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  • Teresa

    Oooo this sounds so good! I agree, vampires should be scary. Though I don’t mind a delicious lust attached to that but I loathe these “vegetarian” vampires. I mean, come on. Might as well not BE a vampire if you don’t drink blood.

    Is this the one that was made into that movie starring Chloe Moretz?

  • Court

    Yes, this is the one that was made into the movie! It was made into a Swedish movie first, which was totally brilliant. I haven’t seen the North American remake of it though.

  • Lisa

    The original film creeped me out and was oddly depressing. Maybe it was just me. Might need to read the book to have that Aha moment the next time I watch :)