BOOK REVIEW: Let the Right One In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist

RELEASE DATE: October 28, 2008
PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Griffin (an imprint of MacMillan)
FORMAT: Paperback
SOURCE: Purchased

It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night. . . .

Sweeping top honors at film festivals all over the globe, director Tomas Alfredsson’s film of Let the Right One In has received the same kind of spectacular raves that have been lavished on the book. American readers of vampire fiction will be thrilled!


A while ago, my husband and I watched the movie Let the Right One In, which was based on the book written by John A. Lindqvist, on the recommendation of a favourite singer of mine, Terami Hirsch. The problem was that we had a version of the movie that had English dubbing, rather than subtitles. I thought this would be a good thing since my husband is very anti-subtitles (I, on the other hand, can handle foreign films), so I didn’t think it would be that bad.

Boy, was I wrong.

The dubbing was the worst English dubbing I had ever heard for a movie. Some of the male characters sounded like girls and it all seemed too much like a version of Coronation Street – light and fluffy – rather than one of the best horror movies of the year.

So, when I bought the book, I was hesitant to read it. I picked it up a few times, but immediately put it down in favour of something else. When the day came that I decided to read Let the Right One In, without putting it down, I couldn’t have been happier. From page one, this was an amazing book.

I had never read any older vampire books. I do have some Anne Rice and some Bram Stoker on my shelves, but I have definitely been pulled into this genre by way of young adult fiction. That being said, while I saw the movie, I was still not prepared for what I was about to read.

There is a fair amount of gore in the novel, though it’s not an obscene goriness – in a way it’s almost tasteful (if that’s possible). I learned not to read this book while eating because Lindqvist can get very descriptive. However, the book is balanced out nicely by both humour and a love story.

Oskar, a young boy who is constantly bullied at school is longing for a backbone so he can stand up for himself. He finds a knife and decides to take out his anger on a tree in the courtyard of his housing complex. One day he meets Eli, a young girl who moved into his complex who is drawn to Oskar. Even though Eli tells Oskar that they shouldn’t become friends and that Oskar should stay away from her, the two become friends, seeing each other nightly in the courtyard and talking via morse code through the walls of their apartments. Of course, it is later found out that Eli isn’t what she says she is.

It’s almost romantic, in a way, when Eli talks to Oskar about why she has to kill people. While she says that Oskar would like to kill the boys who bully him if he had the chance, Eli says that she has no choice. She needs to kill people in order to live. She says she is not a vampire, but rather lives on blood. This doesn’t seem to bother Oskar too much until Eli’s blood-getter servant, Håkan, gets caught trying to capture a boy for blood and Oskar is the only person Eli has to turn to while Håkan – horribly disfigured after dousing himself in 100 proof acid – turns into some kind of zombie with a permanent hard on. Oskar’s’ main concern is to protect Eli while other peoples’ worlds crumble around them as Håkan is on the pursuit to also find Eli.

Love, mystery, murder, vampires, zombies, coming of age, bullying, terror, gore, humour – Let the Right One In has it all. I didn’t find the story to be too slow – there’s a lot going on that keeps the reader interested. Even though I had seen the movie, I was on my toes during the last half of the book, wondering what was going to happen.

Shortly after finishing the novel, I decided to watch the real version of the movie with English subtitles. I absolutely loved it. When it was over, I was sad to have lost that connection with Eli and Oskar, but happy that I found a new movie to add to my favourites. A few things confused me, though – Why did the movie makers decide to change Virginia’s name to Tania? Or Jonny’s name to Conny? And why did Conny seem so … feminine? Why did they leave out one of my favourite parts in the book – when Oskar is close to being killed at the pool and Eli has to ask someone to invite her in in order to save him?

The ending also confused me. In the movie, it seemed that Oskar was not a vampire, but instead decided to leave with Eli as a friend. In the book, it seems vague on whether or not he was turned into a vampire. The book and movie were both wonderful – all the right parts (minus the real “let the right one in” part at the end of the novel) were present in the movie. I’m leary to think of what will happen with such a beautiful book AND a beautiful movie when they are transformed into an American version (which usually ends up as hit or miss), but I’m hoping that it translates well. I still can’t understand why the name is being changed to Let Me In – I had read that it was changed because the name was too long, which confuses me since movies with titles like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford are allowed to have long titles. Do fans of the horror genre come across as not having enough brains to be able to remember a movie title? But I digress.

I will say this – Twilight will seem like unicorns and fairies compared to Let the Right One In. Read only if you’re ready for a REAL vampire story.


One thought on “BOOK REVIEW: Let the Right One In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist

  1. Pingback: FEATURE: My Favourite Vampire Books (So Far) — And My Least Favourite | Reading In Winter

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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