John Ajvide Lindqvist — Let the Right One In

After reading Dracula and then getting curious and checking out the Swedish movie adaptation of Låt den rätte komma in (and enjoying it–it was gorgeously shot and well-paced if also seriously depressing), I picked up the book and decided to give it a try… and yikes, the movie actually left out a lot? This isn’t just a vampire novel… Oskar is a young boy who’s miserable in his small town, bullied at school to such an extent that he’s become incontinent. He meets Eli, his new next door neighbor, who is quite mysterious and doesn’t seem affected by the chilly winter. And then a series of mysterious murders plunge the town into a panic.

The book was really the emotional equivalent of getting punched in the stomach: just everything awful about humanity (and non-humanity, really) was contained in these pages. The prose was spare and I could not put it down because even though I knew what was going to happen (sort of–as I said, the movie is a great adaptation but leaves out a lot for expediency) I needed to know. The characters of Eli and Oskar are strangely affecting, even though both of them are monstrous in their own ways, and the working-class neighborhood of Blakeberg and its inhabitants are almost as much of a main character as the two children. An uncomfortable book–it doesn’t shy away from pretty terrible issues like pedophilia and alcoholism, to name a few–but a suspenseful and well-written one that will keep you turning the pages.

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