Let The Right One In

let the right one inLet The Right One In
by John Ajvide Lindqvist

It’s been a long while since I’ve read anything this wonderful, engrossing, or disturbing.  It’s been years since I’ve read anything this good.

Let The Right One In is everything that you think it is, and nothing that you think it is.  Vampires, you think.  Well, you’re right.  Sort of.

If you’re coming across this title completely unawares: Let The Right One In is, more or less, the story of friendship between an ostracized almost teenager and a young-seeming (but very old) vampire.  What stands out, aside from the quality of the writing and the fantastical element of vampires (which is actually not heavy-handed for 95% of the book) is the believability of the story.  People act like you’d expect them to act, and are, if not fully realized, at least compelling characterizations.

It’s a story of friendship and loneliness, and of suffering and depravity (and of identity and anonymity) — but in all the wrong places.  Not wrong, necessarily, but unexpected.  Which is to say the story takes your expectations and muddles with your brain.  Makes you wonder.  Surprises you with what you already know.  There’s much in the story to find disturbing, but it doesn’t always come from the places you want it to come from, if you can want it to come from anywhere.  “Expect” is a better word, but not the right one.  The story doesn’t always lead where you’d hope. When it does, maybe you wish that’s not what you had hoped.

Let The Right One In makes you wonder about people, like you always do.  Makes you think.  Believe.  Wonder.

There’s not much that can be said without giving away the progression — the learning — of reading through the book, or watching the movie.  Lindqvist adds some interesting details to the science of vampires: curious asides that, for all their apparent insignificance, only work to strengthen the narrative as a whole.

Having come to the book by way of the movie, I feel like this is one of the few instances where neither the book nor the movie let the other down.  Both perform exceptionally; having seen the movie, the book still surprised me.  Changed my impressions, but without diluting the impact of the movie.  The book and movie are different in many ways, but they complement each other extraordinarily well.  They’ll bear re-reading & re-watching.

I loved this book.  I expect a long drought before I find something as interesting, challenging, and satisfying.