Monday, February 21, 2011
CBRIII: Book#10: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Oskar is a twelve year old boy that lives with his mother in the Swedish town of Blackeberg. He is obsessed with murderers and keeps a scrapbook with macabre clippings from newspapers in it. Oskar is mercilessly picked on by boys in his class named Micke, Jonny, and Tomas. He's sick of being called Piggy and being tormented for the sick pleasure of the other boys. One night Oskar meets Eli on the monkey bars outside of their respective apartments. Oskar is immediately taken with the strange girl and they slowly become friends. However, Eli and her assumed father are not how they seem.
This book is heartbreaking. First you have Oskar, a child who is terrified of going to school because of the torture he endures at the hands of psychotic peers. The child wears a Pissball to keep from soiling his pants because he so frequently pisses them from nerves. His single mother is worried but doesn't go the extra mile to really connect with her son or help him out. Hell, she never really delves deeply enough into his life to know that he needs any help at all. His father lives a fair distance away and is a drunk. Oskar is immediately seen as a sympathetic character that you want to protect.
Eli is a creature that requires blood to live. She has to rely on a pedophile to bring her sustenance as well as tolerating the man's unnatural urges toward her. She's lonely. She was turned as the twelve year old that she forever remains and under terrifying and painful circumstances. Though Eli is undead, a creature that feeds on others, you also want protection for her. You want so badly for Oskar and Eli to be each other's answer. You want them to save each other. I suppose they do in some ways. In other ways they just serve to further hurt and complicate each other.
We also have the drunken characters on the outskirts of the story; very much involved while not aware of their fates. Lacke, Morgan, Larry, Jocke, Virginia, and Gosta are all friends. Most of them drink in a Chinese restaurant nightly, with the exceptions of Virginia and Gosta. Gosta has cats and Virginia has had a relationship with Lacke that has left them complicated. One night Jocke goes missing and Gosta claims that his friend was attacked by a little girl. Their stories all revolve around the toll that Jocke's death takes on them and their interaction with the killer on the loose in their town.
This book is haunting, beautifully written, sweet and frightening, depressing, and spectacular. Lindqvist has taken what some would call a vampire story and given it new life, as it were. The appearance of innocence when there is so much real evil lurking behind young faces is terrifying while holding close to reality. He has just chosen to take that story of the perpetually hurt and damaged child and pair it with something equally as taboo and disheartening: the vampire mythos.
If you've seen the movie you already know what an accomplishment this story is. I strongly recommend reading the book if you can find it. At times I wanted the book to be over just so I knew how Oskar and Eli made out, even though I've seen the film. Yet, I still savored every page as I read. Truly an outstanding novel.