John Ajvide Lindqvist
Title: Let Me In/Let the Right One In
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Publication Date: 2004
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Linqvist’s Let Me In is a roller coaster ride of a story. It follows Oskar, a twelve year old, who is terribly bullied and who feels wholly inadequate. When Oskar comes home after a beating he goes to the woods to unwind. There he meets Eli, a young girl with a strangely adult way of behaving. Oskar falls in love for the first time, but Eli has a secret, and a series of brutal murders is putting a damper on everything.
The first thing that struck me about this book was how relatable a subject Oskar was. Lindqvist managed to write a novel about a boy that was both reflective of the character’s age, social status, and general experiences that also didn’t read like it was written by a twelve year old. This can be a tough thing to pull off, especially when trying to narrate the character’s thoughts. Not only are writers often adults long since distanced from pre-adolescence, but conveying those thoughts in a way that is true, but also does not lost sight of the audience is a very precarious balancing act.
The quick transition in which Eli becomes a common figure in Oskar’s life was also well done. Though it was fast in scope of time, it didn’t feel unnaturally fast for their relationship to develop the way it did.
When the murders start happening, a rash of characters are introduced. Admittedly, it was pretty head spinning. It wasn’t always clear who was speaking or what relationships the speaker had to the other characters. It took a while to really see all of the connections between the characters and their stories.
However, the intricate ways that the stories tied together was impressive.
I think what I enjoyed most was that instead of gathering suspense (in a more traditional horror story way) to keep the reader going, the intensity built on the relationships of the characters. I’m admittedly a huge chicken about horror stories. They’ll keep me up all night jumping at imagined creaks and groans. Lindqvist, however, didn’t go for the typically terrifying horror story feel. It was a much more approachable, though no less intense, type of horror story; it focused far more on the terror of the transformation and infection than on the monster story that usually reigns.
I was, however, a bit bewildered at some of the way sex and sexuality was used in this novel. While it wasn’t the main focus, per se, the use of gender identity and homosexuality in the novel was very clearly present. I don’t mind any of these as a plot point, but it seemed that, with a few exceptions, the topics were present without actually motivating very much.
In later parts of the book gender identity and sexual orientation during adolescence is brought up as a topic. Lindqvist, in fact, spends a lot of time detailing a situation that would be confusing for any person, but especially so for a twelve year old. It was a bit surprising to me that the situation was left as it was. There was quite a bit of discussion between two of the characters and Oskar’s inner turmoil about sexuality was shown, but it didn’t really seem to affect the relationships Oskar was having with the other characters.
This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think for many people, sexuality and gender are things that, for the most part, just are. It’s confusing for a time, but many people can come to accept that gender and sexuality aren’t always as clear cut as they might be.
It seemed, though, that Lindqvist spent a great deal of time outlining these as well as a number of horribly abusive tales that were related to the subjects without really making a clear point about them. It seemed like he wanted to, but that it just didn’t appear.
Maybe it’s just me. That’s always a very real possibility.
Overall, a great read. It’s fast paced and outstandingly detailed.