Let the Right One In (Original Swedish: Låt den rätte komma in), also known as Let Me In, is a 2004 vampire fiction novel by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist. Centering on the relationship between a 12-year-old boy, Oskar, and a centuries-old vampire in the form of the child, Eli. The story takes place in Blackeberg, a working class suburb of Stockholm, Sweden in the early 1980s. Focusing on the darker side of humanity, the novel deals with issues such as bullying, drugs, theft, pedophilia, prostitution and murder in addition to the obvious supernatural theme.
Oskar is a lonely boy from a broken home. He’s bullied at school and is longing for friendship.
Oskar was on his way home from school, his head heavy. He always felt worse when he managed to avoid punishment in that way, by playing the pig, or something else. Worse than if he had been punished. He knew this, but couldn’t handle the thought of the physical punishment when it approached. He would rather sink to any level. No pride.
Robin Hood and Spider-Man had pride. If Sir John or Doctor Octopus cornered them they simply spit danger in the face, come what may. But what did Spider-Man know, anyway? He always managed to get away, even if it was impossible. He was a comic book action figure and had to survive for the next issue. He had his spider powers, Oskar had his pig squeal. Whatever it took to survive.
Eli is a troubled girl who’s just moved in next door. She never goes to school and is compelled to fill an eternal emptiness. He finally finds a friend. They tap messages to each other through the wall in Morse code, they play together, and through his friendship with Eli, Oskar starts to stand up for himself.
Eli looks at me and sees… what?
Oskar turned to the wall, to Eli. The two faces peeked out from between the trees in the wallpaper. His cheek was still swollen and tender, a crust had started to form on top of the wound. What would he tell Eli, if Eli came out tonight?
It was all connected. What he would tell her depended on what he was to her. Eli was new to him and therefore he had the opportunity to be someone else, say something different from what he said to other people. What do you do anyway? To make people like you?
When a series of brutal killings plagues the neighbourhood, these two young misfits make a deep connection, sensing in each other a kindred spirit. But the shocking truth about Eli tests Oskar’s loyalty – and love – beyond all imaginable limits, in this chilling tale of loneliness, love and legend.
Of course, all is not what it seems (in more ways than one), as Eli is a 200 year old vampire, forever condemned to live as a child, but not a child. She has a helper named Hakan who kills people and drains their blood for her, but it is not long before their presence in the town starts to raise suspicions. Other characters are drawn into Oskar and Eli’s world – the bullies, the police, a group of friends missing one of their number, and a newborn vampire coming to terms with what they are.
Part coming of age tale, part gruesome horror, it’s also a social commentary of the city at the time, and shows characters dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, and crime.
Just thought it was creepy how people got all worked up about someone getting their “just deserts” and all that. He himself was absolutely anti-death penalty. Not because he had some “modern” sense justice, no. More like a premodern one.
His reasoning went something like this: if someone kills my child, then I kill that person. Dostoevsky talked a lot about forgiveness, mercy. Sure. From society’s perspective, absolutely. But as a parent to the child it is my moral right to end the life of the one who did it. That society in turn gives me eight years in jail or something is a different matter.
It’s pretty ambitious, and it mostly delivers, although there’s still something missing for me, and I’m not sure what it is. I think I was expecting more from it, as I’d heard such good things. I thought I’d find it haunting, and much more moving. It was an enjoyable read, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure how well it straddled its worlds. Oskar and Eli’s relationship has some touching moments, but their friendship felt a little shallow to me. As for the horror, there’s plenty of that. It’s gory and descriptive and it’s probably wise if you don’t eat while reading, because it really put me off my lunch. Which I guess is a compliment.
After becoming a bestseller in the author’s home country of Sweden, it has was translated into Danish, German, Russian, English and Chinese in 2007, and Finnish in 2008.
Confusingly, when it was translated into English, the American version underwent a name change to “Let Me In” while the British version retained the original title. Additional translations include Italian, Spanish, Polish, and Norwegian. The Swedish-language film version titled Let The Right One In was directed by Tomas Alfredson, and was released in 2008 to widespread critical acclaim. The English-language film version titled Let Me In was directed by Matt Reeves, and was released October 1, 2010.
A theatre play ran in London and Scotland until August 2014.