Monday, September 27, 2010
Book Review- Let The Right One In
As you can see, I'm only a little bit excited about the release of Let Me In this Friday. I should give credit to the guy who created this background- thank you David Park! You can probably expect many of the posts that go out over the next week to be somehow related to Let The Right One In/Let Me In. Today, I'm posting my review on the book, then I will post a review on the Swedish film within the next few days, and then of course, I'll have my review on Matt Reeve's version Let Me In once I see it. I'll go ahead and say right now that Let The Right One In is probably my favorite book of all time and I read A LOT! Here's why I love this book so much. Oh, there are some spoilers ahead so you've been warned!
So Let The Right One In is a, well, vampire romance. In more recent popular culture, vampire romance has taken on connotations such as cheesy, trashy, tweens, teeny-bopper and other blasphemous words like that. I've been a fan of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles since I was in high school so I've always had a great amount of love and respect for the vampire genre. Much of the sub-text that comes from vampire lore can used as a powerful story telling tool. The dark and gritty nature of vampire legends, the emotional implications one could suffer falling victim to such a fate, and of course supernatural themes one can play with. Lately, a certain felonious woman has abused the use of vampire tales and turned it into porn for little girls. Let The Right One In was a like a light of hope for me that proved the entire vampire genre wasn't turning into shit in the shit hole.
Let The Right One In was written by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist and was publish back in 2004. The novel is set in a small, working class suburban town named Blackeberg back in the 1980's. The setting of the novel does a superb job in giving the audience feelings of isolation, helplessness and a chill from that infamous Swedish snowy front. The adults and children in the book are living in completely different worlds from each other. The adults are powerless, lonely, middle aged folks who are either working on minimum wage or unemployed. They are too concerned with their own miserable lives to notice the cruelty that happening among the children of the town. The children in the book seem to live within a complicated hierarchy kind of like in Lord of the Flies. It consists of young bullies, older and even more ruthless bullies, the unfortunate bullied, then there's the goods/hideout supplier.
So our book begins with 12-year old Oskar who is viciously bullied at school. Oskar often fantasizes about extracting revenge on the bullies by committing mass murder. The kid is obsessed with cutting out newspaper articles about grisly murders and keeps an entire scrapbook with his clippings; he's basically a serial killer in the making. One night, Oskar notices a beautiful young girl moving in next door along with her guardian. Oskar catches the girl's attention one night while he's playing out his murder fantasy outside. The girl introduces herself as Eli and the two become friends after Oskar lets her borrow his Rubiks Cube. Oskar sees Eli's fascination with puzzles and teaches her Morris Code as a way the two can communicate through the walls with each other.
Oskar eventually admits to Eli that he's tormented at school by bullies and she encourages him to stand up for himself by fighting back. The interaction between the two kids is very touching. The bigger part of the book is written through Oskar's point of view and its very cute when you read all the concerned emotions he has towards Eli. Eli often appears very sickly looking and Oskar is determined to find some way to save her. Oskar eventually tries some irrational notion he got into his head as a way to possibly heal Eli. This idea ends up revealing the vampire side in her. So yeah, If you didn't know that already, Eli is the vampire in the book. Even though Eli has been alive for 200 years, her mentality is stuck as a 12-year old child. She is still immature kid and will not think twice about killing an innocent person in order to feed. The guardian that Eli lives with is actually a pedophile named Hakan who she basically seduces into doing all her dirty work. Hakan, though he doesn't like doing so, goes out and murders young children in order to collect their blood and bring it back for Eli. It's not long before the town's police begins investigating all the murders committed by Hakan and Eli and it's only a matter of time before Eli is caught.
The book is very much a coming of age story. Eli helps Oskar stand up against his tormentors and eventually makes him drop the whole soon-to-be serial killer thing. Oskar provides Eli with love and comfort after 200 years of being alone and motivates her to change her way of obtaining blood. The love between these two kids is truly love in its purest form. Eli later reveals to Oskar that she is, well, in fact a he and his full name is Elias. Eli fell victim to some sort of sadistic vampire ritual 200 years ago where he was castrated and turned into a vampire. I thought this was a brilliant twist on the story because it takes out any sort of sexual implications that could have been in their relationship. Oskar is initially freaked out when he learns about Eli's origins and runs for it, but after a close brush with death he realizes the extent of his love for Eli. I really see this book as a love story above all else. Yes it is a vampire novel, but I found all the supernatural elements of the book to be something secondary used to enhance the love story. Even though I said this book is a coming of age novel, I believe that that fact is also auxiliary to the love story. You read coming of age novels all the time that deal with a young kid being bullied, but I'm sure none of them ended the way this one did (now that's something I don't want to spoil for you if you don't already know).
As amazing as Let The Right One In is, it's not a book for everyone. There are very, VERY dark themes all throughout the novel; some that a lot of people won't be able to stomach including child prostitution and pedophilia. There are also many horrific elements that are in the book, one in particular that wasn't included in the movie. John Ajvide Lindqvist has such a way of creating suspense in his novels, along with drawing out the most horrific images in your mind. Regardless, the novel is beautifully written and makes me wish I knew Swedish so I could read his direct version. If you're looking for the next Twilight, please look elsewhere. This isn't a book for you. If you are looking for some bloody, disgusting horror novel, again, look elsewhere cause this won't be it. If you're looking for a haunting love story that is unpredictable, original, complex and heart aching with a bit of supernatural themes sprinkled on top, this is the book for you. The word "masterpiece" is often over used and has lost some of its original significance, but going back to its original meaning, I can say that Let The Right One In is nothing less than a masterpiece.
Final Score- 10/10