Fans of horror movies know the Swedish vampire flick “Let The Right One In” generally finds itself among most credible “best horror movies of all time” lists. Its American counterpart, “Let Me In,” which shares its title with the source novel, also stands in fairly high regard. It’s rare for both a native-language film adaptation (in this case, Swedish) and an American remake of a foreign horror story to share critical renown, but such is the case with both films based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let Me In.
But this isn’t about films. It’s about the book. The bold, beautiful, gross, shocking, disturbing, satisfying book.
Originally published in 2004, the book came out during those tumultuous years where human-vampire romances were all the rage. The Twilight universe would soon be huge in both novel and cinematic form, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books were booming and its television counterpart, True Blood, was on its way. Underworld was cool, Aaliyah was The Queen of the Damned. Even Abe Lincoln was dealing with vampires in those days. It was quite the era for fangs and blood.
I guess that’s why I waited until 2020 to read the book, and still haven’t seen the films.
John Ajvide Lindqvist isn’t a household name, but that’s probably because nobody can pronounce it. The story focuses on a meek, bullied boy who lacks confidence and identity. Of course, he befriends a curious and reclusive girl who – you guessed it – turns out to be a vampire. The setup is nothing remarkable, but Lindqvist’s knack for nuanced storytelling, effective pacing, and delightful prose make turn this simple concept into something much bigger, deeper, and darker.
This book has it all: depression, anxiety, murder, pedophilia, sex addiction, self-harm, domestic violence, domestic abuse, bullying, institutional negligence, monsters, guts, gore, drugs, and a number of somewhat random KISS references. It also has tenderness, introspection, battles with morality, commentary on forgiveness and revenge, and redemption.
While society’s overwhelming vampire fascination ultimately came to a close, in the spirit of In With the Old, I must say this book holds up remarkably well after 16 years. In many ways, its relevancy in certain areas may be more applicable today than when it was written. Bullying is a major current throughout the entire story. Mental health is a constant issue, as there isn’t a single stable character in the entire novel. Even the tertiary characters become portraits of depravity and instability. That keeps the reader’s interest, but also holds weight in today’s vain, image-obsessed, internet-bullying society.
In with the old? Yes, sir. This is still one to read in 2020.