“Let the Right One In” is the first novel of Swedish author John Ajvide Lindgvist which was very successful both in Sweden and abroad. The very title of the novel suggests we are dealing with vampires, since one of the concepts in vampire lore is that they cannot enter somewhere if they are not invited. It also refers to the Morrissey song “Let the Right One Slip In”. We follow the relationship between Oskar, a twelve-year-old boy, and Eli, a vampire in a child’s body. As with many similar books, the supernatural theme is used to portray issues in everyday life. In this novel specifically, the author deals with problems of social anxiety and isolation, divorce, alcoholism, bullying, paedophilia, mutilation and murder, all set in a seemingly idyllic suburbs of Stockholm. There are two screen adaptations of the book – a Swedish-language film, Let the Right One In, directed by Tomas Alfredson, which was released in 2008, and an English-language film titled Let Me In, directed by Matt Reeves, released in 2010.
At the centre of the novel is the relationship between two children. Well, one child and one vampire trapped in a child’s body. Their relationship grows from mutual distrust to loyalty and something more. As the book goes on, they become more and more dependent on each other. Is it a healthy relationship? I’ll let you decide that for yourself. It’s a complex relationship in which both sides are risking a lot, but also getting a lot in return. Their relationship, like any other, is shaped by their surroundings, which seem to go from bad to worse for both of them. The only thing they can rely on is each other. Oskar is repeatedly disappointed by the people who should take care of him. They constantly fail in seeing what problems he’s facing. Everyone but Eli. They become more similar as you read on – two sides of the same coin.
The novel is not just vampire story. Blackeberg doesn’t feel supernatural. The whole setting of the book feels very realistic. Bleak, but realistic. The characters we meet deal with everyday problems. The book is a depiction of a society and the struggles of its members. There are moments where it seems more like a drama then a horror. And other times the horror that comes from the human characters is worse than the one that the “monsters” provide.
If you are not fan of gore and mutilation then this might not be the book for you. There are some scenes which are difficult to read if you’re not used to a more vivid depiction of violence and abuse. The movie is quite tame in comparison. It left out a lot of the lore and some more intense scenes, but that in no way diminishes the quality of the movie. If you like the novel, you should definitely see the screen version (preferably the Swedish one).
All things considered, this is a great vampire novel with everything you would expect form one, combined with the atmosphere from a Swedish thriller. It will lead you through an emotional roller coaster, so be prepared. Those faint of heart might want to skip this one. But for fans of a good gory vampire story, this is a must read.