The more Swedish writers I read, the more I think they are one twisted bunch! If I had to give this book a scream rating, I’d give it 4/5ths of a scream for grotesque violence (some descriptions give American Psycho a run for its money—and that is saying something), disturbing images and general ickiness related to pedophilia. If you want to be grossed out and creeped out, this book won’t let you down.
THE BASIC STORY
A 12-year-old boy named Oskar is bullied at school and miserable at home. His dreams of violent revenge on the kids who bully him provide a rich fantasy life but not much more. However, things start looking up when he meets a girl named Eli in his apartment complex. Despite only coming out at night and her rather strange smell and appearance, Oskar finds himself drawn to Eli—with whom he slowly develops a friendship. But Eli is not quite what she appears to be, and disappearances and murders begin to happen soon after her arrival in town with her “father.” As the circumstances surrounding Eli’s reality become clear, Oskar faces some difficult choices, and several of the town’s citizens (a suburb of Stockholm) face an ancient threat that will alter their lives forever.
This book was made into a movie twice (a Swedish version and an American version), and I’d have to say it is tailor-made for film (yet one I don’t think I could handle seeing if the descriptions on the page were truly brought to life). The book has a creepy dark atmosphere that permeates every page—I would not want to live in Oskar’s town under any circumstances! One major story line involves a group of local drunks—all of whom live depressing and lonely lives and are just as trapped and miserable as Oskar. To be honest, no character in this book has a happy life. Drugs, drinking, divorce, loss and estrangement feature in everyone’s lives, and almost no character has a chance at a happy ending.
Despite all this, I found it a compelling read and perfect for RIP. You’ll leave this book feeling disturbed, depressed and disgusted, yet I also found myself feeling a strange sense of hope for our “heroes.” It is to Lindqvist’s credit that I often found myself sympathizing with Eli. (However, one thing that bothered me was the inexplicable change of Eli’s gender about midway through the book. I still don’t understand it, and I’m not sure why Lindqvist thought it was necessary. If you read the book and have a theory about this, I’d love to hear it).
Be warned though! If graphic descriptions of grisly murders, pedophilia and reanimation disturb you, steer clear of this book. For the rest of you, this is an interesting take on vampire fiction that truly horrifies (just like a good horror book should).