For a chilly winter’s night, there is perhaps no better book for a horror fan to pick up than John Lindqvist’s chilling Let the Right One In. The 2008 Swedish film adaptation of the same name was quickly lauded by fans and critics alike for being one of the best vampire films in recent years. Whether they have seen the film or not, readers will be treated to a haunting and engaging tale with this book, which manages to take a monster that is more than familiar to the horror genre and give it a beautiful new spin.
Let the Right One In is the story of lonely 12-year-old Oskar. He becomes the only friend of a mysterious young girl named Eli who moves into his apartment complex. As outsiders, the two share an unmistakable bond, which is put to the test when a series of murders shocks their Stockholm suburb and Oskar learns the terrifying truth about his new friend. These two are undoubtedly at the forefront of the story, but Lindqvist fills his novel with an entire cast of people who are similar to each other–overall sad, depressed, and looking for a reason to keep existing. The relationships amongst all these different people are often complicated and somewhat pathetic, but the reader no doubt, will themselves feeling for each of them as they are thrust into the horrible world that Eli brings with her.Like any good storyteller, Lindqvist makes his own adaptations to the vampire lore while still retaining those classic elements that most people know. The drinking of blood to stay strong, the danger of the sun, and the requirement to be invited in are all there. What Lindqvist adds are some of the physical differences having to do with Eli’s “infection,” as it is called. While feeding or attacking, Eli can not only produce claws from her hands and feet, but also wings that actually allow her to fly. When she enters a place she was not invited, blood comes out of every pore in her body. Some of the more disturbing parts of the book are those involving Virginia, after Eli has bitten her. The reader can almost feel the horrible pain and confusion that she goes through during her transformation.
A few things that are unclear in the film are more deeply explored in the novel. Though just how Eli became a vampire is not fully revealed, there is some more insight into her background and how she became the androgynous being that she is today. In fact, after this flashback, Lindqvist completely changes the pronouns referring to Eli from female to male. Also made more clear is her relationship to Hakan, the man that she lives with and who procures blood for her. One harrowing sequence near the beginning of the book reveals that Hakan’s devotion to Eli stems from the fact that he is a pedophile. Hakan and the other adult characters who are only minor in the movie are also given just as much attention as Eli and Oskar in the novel, rounding out each person’s arc in satisfying, albeit sometimes horrifying, ways.
Let the Right One In is a deeply disturbing story that will satisfy fans of the genre on all levels. It is, at times, quite shocking in its graphicness, and not just when dealing with the vampire element. It is also a heart-wrenching story about the loneliness of being an outcast–whether you are a bullied child or an adult with an apartment full of cats–and about the beauty of friendship and acceptance. Let the Right One In is a great companion to be experienced along with the film (a very faithful adaptation despite heavy omissions) and should be on the must-read list for all horror fans.