This is a review I wrote a while ago but didn’t post. I thought it would be nice to take a break from the Hunger Games trilogy to add a review of completely different type of book.
This novel contains the right mix of pure emotional drama, violent brutality and urban coming of age tale to make it one of my favourite novels in the past couple of years. Oh, and there’s vampires too.
The main character is Oskar, a 12 year old boy living alone with his mother in 1980s Sweden. He is a victim of bullying at school, who seems to have little in his life except enjoying a cup of cocoa and some TV with his devoted Mum, and a slightly unsavoury infatuation with serial killers. Until a young girl named Eli moves into the next apartment to his. Classic boy meets girl, right? Not quite.
Oskar notices that Eli is not like other girls his age, but that doesn’t stop them forming a bond. She is the only one who seems to understand him, and the first to encourage him to stand up to his bullies. But as they become closer, Oskar realises that Eli is more than a little odd. The spoiler that many may know from reviews and the films is that Eli is a vampire, but there’s more that you may not know. I’ll leave that for you to find out.
Oskar’s story is gradually interspersed more and more with that of others living in his area. The novel’s other colourful characters include the local paedophile Haken; Tommy, a sixteen year old with a glue sniffing habit and issues with his Mum’s new boyfriend; Lacke, a 40-something alcoholic who may realise too late who is important to him and Gosta, an older alcoholic fellow living alone with a lot of cats in a house that stinks of piss. Their connection? A serial killer on the loose in the area.
Whilst I was gripped by Oskar and Eli’s story, many of the other storylines drew me in too. One that stood out for me, albeit it’s brief length was Virginia’s. The account of realising that your body has been taken over by an entity with a thirst for blood over which you have no control was an intriguing one.
This was a gripping, compelling book; one that I won’t forget for a while. It is certainly dark – the many murder scenes are not for the faint-hearted – but at its heart it is a coming of age tale of a young boy growing up in 1980s Sweden. It is a Swedish import, translated from it’s native language, but I don’t feel that the story suffers in translation at all. Certainly, if I had to pick a favourite between this and the most famous Swedish translated novel of recent times, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I would choose this, hands down. And I thought TGWTDT wasn’t bad.
Whatever you do, read this. But maybe not last thing at night.