Spooktober, Day 11: Let the Right One In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist

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“Are you OLD?”

“No. I’m only twelve. But I’ve been that for a long time.” 

It’s 1981. Young Oskar is living with his mother, bullied at school and faces visits from his alcoholic father. Then he meets, Eli, the girl who’s just moved in next door, and he’s finally found someone who understands him. There’s only one problem: Eli is a vampire, and the man claiming to be Eli’s “dad” may or may not be a child molester who provides Eli with the blood they need to survive.

Let the Right One In works because like the best vampire stories, it’s not really about vampires. There are monsters-a-plenty in Lindqvist’s world, all of them terrifyingly real: bullies, alcoholics, neglectful adults and child molesters, to name just a few. Honestly, the horrors in Oskar’s life are so unsettling that a centuries-old haemophage looks positively quaint in comparison.

Maybe that’s why Oskar’s relationship with Eli works so well, since Eli is, strangely enough, the warmest and most sympathetic character in Oskar’s life. It subverts our expectations on the innocence of childhood, yet somehow reinforces them at the same time. Their relationship may be unconventional, but its also genuinely sweet and tender, and you can’t help but hope that their friendship will somehow endure the carnage going on around it.

Let The Right One In is a masterpiece of Scandi noir, an extended meditation on the dark side of the human soul. It’s unrelentingly brutal, which only serves to make its moments of joy gleam all the brighter. It’s essential reading for anyone who thinks vampire fiction has gotten “soft,” or for a crossover thriller with light supernatural elements. After all, not all monsters have fangs…

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