I always enjoy seeing what the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program decides to send me, even though it usually isn't a book or author I had ever heard of. So when I got the notice that they were sending me a copy of John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In (2004) -- the book upon which the recent vampire movie is based -- I got extra excited. I love good vampire stories, and from what I had heard about the movie this was a genuinely freaky horror story without all that teenage Twilight-y nonsense.
In the bleak winter of suburban 1980s Stockholm, 12-year-old Oskar holes himself up after school in his bedroom in the apartment he shares with his mother to avoid the constant bullying he is subjected to on the playground. His secret hobby is clipping out newspaper articles about murderers and serial killers and pasting them into his scrapbook. His bookshelves are filled with horror novels, and his daydreams often turn violently against the boys the bully him at school.
Then, one evening, a boy is killed, drained of blood, in the woods in a nearby town. The next night Oskar meets his new neighbor on the playground at the apartment complex. She is an odd young girl named Eli who simultaneously attracts and repulses Oskar, but he can't stop going out every night to see her again.
One of Oskar's neighbors is part of a group of friends who meet up at a nearby Chinese restaurant every night to drown their sorrows and pass the time. Then one of them disappears, and the only witness to his death is the saddest and drunkest of the group -- a man who lives with dozens and dozens of cats and hardly ever leaves the house. He saw his friend attacked by a child, but he doesn't think anyone would believe him and doesn't want to get involved.
Things escalate -- both between Oskar and Eli and between the victims and survivors. The characterization in this book is excellent -- the coming of age romance between the two children, the co-dependence of Eli and those around her, and the friendships and broken lives of all the adults. And there are also some kick ass horror scenes, excellent (and often disturbing) kills, and a nice interpretation of the traditional vampire mythology.
I am excited to watch the movie, and even though I've heard it's great, I can't imagine that it could hold up to the book. Very nicely done.