CW: pedophilia, child sexual abuse, torture, self-harm, bullying, one graphic child prostitution scene, and murder
Man, this book. Welcome to a rambling review where you’re going to learn nothing of substance! Buckle on in and get ready for this mess.
I’ve had this on my TBR for years. I’ve owned it for years. Finally, I got to it. It was a great fall book, a great one to bridge into the spooky season. But… it was weird. And left a bad taste in my mouth for a few reasons, including a super spoiler-y one. Yes, I’m going to discuss it. There will be warnings for you if you don’t want to see the spoilers, though.
The story follows a number of people, but for me it comes down to three: Oskar, Eli, and Håkan. Oskar is a boy who is severely bullied at school and doesn’t have any friends. He’s also obsessed with some murders going on in town. Eli is a new girl who lives near Oskar and attracts his attention. Håkan is Eli’s protector and is, well, a pedophile.
To me, those were the three characters that really mattered to the story. Everyone else wasn’t needed.
Hell, even Håkan could have been cut out because his story wasn’t important until certain parts of the book. Plus, he is a pedophile. He was… disturbing to say the least. If child sexual abuse is a trigger for you, please stay away. There are a few very graphic portions that deal directly with children being abused. It unsettled me, to say the least. And, it’s one thing that really left a bad taste in my mouth because it felt like Lindqvist was adding it for shock value rather than creating a meaningful conversation on the topic.
I thought the story was good until we got about halfway through the book, then it lost its focus and kind of picked back up again at the end. I wasn’t satisfied by the ending, honestly. It didn’t save the book.
Then, there’s the other piece that left a very bad taste in my mouth. This is where the spoilers come in, though, for Eli’s character! I know I haven’t said much about Eli to this point.
SPOILERS START HERE
Turn away now. I’ll give you a second to read this sentence and then start in.
Eli. Eli, Eli, Eli. Not only did that name trip me up because my beloved pup’s name is Eli, but also that character was odd. I did not include it in my content warning because I think it was entirely me, but everything came off as transphobic with Eli’s character.
Because, at first, Eli was a girl. She was the little girl who moved in next year. Then, Oskar found out that Eli’s full name is Elias. And then Oskar realized that was a boy’s name. So, warning bells went off in my mind. Like, “oh shit is Eli a transgirl vampire??” And then I knew that this book wouldn’t really handle it well.
Then, there’s a revelation that Eli was born male and identifies as male… but when he was human, for some unexplained reason, his penis and testicles got cut out. I wish I was joking.
They cut them off and all that’s there is a smooth spot. This is described in the book. There’s a torture scene that you read.
Honestly, it just made warning bells come off in my head because I didn’t want to read casual transphobia or anything. Again, I think it’s me. But it made me nervous and not feel great inside while reading it.
Also, it was never explained fully. It felt like another part that Lindqvist decided to put in something for shock value. Rather than talk about eunuchs — since I can only assume that was what was going on with Eli because, again, it was never explained why this happened — it just did it, showed it, and then never really brought it up.
Eli went from a girl to a boy.
It just came off bad and I don’t think it makes the book age well. Also, it’s in the non-American movie, too.
For those who left us, do come back! It’s done now.
I’m pointing out mainly negative things out about the book, I know. It still was solid and pretty good, but it’s not great. Lots of things could have been edited out to make it a better book. I likely won’t read it again, but I’m glad I finally got to it.
Have you read this? What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with me?
Is it on your TBR?