Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Also published under the title Let Me In, this is the only one of the three books I read for my Readers' Advisory genre assignment that I would have read for pleasure. I had first heard of this book during my bookselling days, as it was gaining popularity with customers due to the influx of interest in Swedish fiction due to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the English-language movie was wowing the film circuit.
It went on my "to read" list then, and I decided to take the plunge as part of the genre assignment, in which I focused on horror. I'm glad I did, as I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Set in an early 1980s Swedish suburb, this vampire story does not contain sparkly or romantic vampires. The relationship between Oskar, the pre-teen around whom the story revolves, and Eli, the seemingly young vampire is...not quite right. Once the reader meets Eli, we also start to meet the people who orbit around her influence, including a woman who is accidentally turned and Hakan, Eli's pedophile "caretaker".
This book is especially interesting as it shows the importance of secondary appeal factors. I will discuss the main ones below, but one of my major sources of enjoyment was just how wrong it is. I like things that are shocking - I see this as a bit of a result of being a goody-goody priest's kid as a child. Now, I like tattoos, music that is disturbing, and books that are shocking. As such, the more disturbing a read is, the more I'll probably enjoy it. This book is no exception. The best description I've found is from a Goodreads review by Stephen, where he describes the book as, "...soiled...soiled and a bit emotionally off-kilter." I pride myself, when reading fanfic, as being almost unsquickable, and my reputation is secure after reading this book.
Story (70%): This is a page-turner. As I got drawn into Eli's funhouse-mirror disturbing world, I wanted to know how this nightmare mess of a situation would end, and how disturbing it would get before it did. This makes story the main major appeal factor that drew me into this novel.
Character (30%): A part of the disturbing tone of the book is due to the strange cast of characters, especially the abhorrent and pathetic Hakan. Though not as big an influence for me as story, the array of characters Lindqvist creates, including the enigmatic Eli, is a strong point of this work.
Interestingly, I think I may be in the minority that setting is not an appeal factor that influenced me with this book. Though a lot of the press surrounding the book and movie has emphasized its location, I felt like the story could be transposed to somewhere else without it changing the story. There isn't an inherent "Swedishness" to it that would make setting a crucial appeal factor for me. The language does not stand out either for me, though it must be noted that I read it in the English translation, so I do not know how it reads in the original Swedish.