“Let the Right One In” writer, John Ajvide Lindqvist has created a true horror story with “Little Star.” It’s not a slasher, it’s not about monsters, it’s not about ghosts. It’s a book about the horrors of existence. The horrors of loneliness. The horrors of fame. The horrors of youth. The horrors of violence. The horrors of life.
“Little Star” is almost unbearably stark, relentless in its decent into darkness, and fearless in its graphic violence. But most importantly, it’s brilliant.
“Little Star” begins with married washed-up pop duo Lennart and Laila Cederstrom. Since the steam ran out on their music career, their relationship has shriveled into a cold, abusive misery. The couple have a son, Jerry, a once promising musician himself, who now lives as a petty crook and all-around low-life. He drifts in and out of Lennart and Laila’s lives, dropping by to simply eat food and provoke his father. Life is all but dead for the Cederstrom family, until one day, when Lennart discovers a tiny infant wrapped in a plastic bag while mushrooming in the woods. As Lennart pulls the infant from what could have been her shallow grave, instead of a cry, she lets loose a perfect, stunningly beautiful musical note. Lennart, the almost ABBA-like popstar (Lindqvist is Swedish, so beef up on your ABBA, gang!), quickly realizes that he has literally unearthed a perfect singing machine. A human with the rawest of raw talent. A gifted being. A little star. So he snatches her up and brings her home to raise as his own.
Lennart soon learns that his mystery cash-cow – whom he affectionally calls “Little One” – is more of a mystery than he expected. She is cold, emotionless and strangely curious. She is an alien to human relations. Incapable of love and understanding. But is she human at all? Is she an angel? Is she something else entirely? What exactly is she? And what is she capable of?
A lot, it turns out.
We follow Little One – who comes to be called Theres, thanks to Jerry, her eventual caretaker – as she grows into a bizarre teenager on the path to stardom. Theres not only has a marvelous singing voice, but she has an innate ability to pinpoint (or implant?) the “truth” in lost and troubled teen girls. And it is that truth that’s at the heart of “Little Star.” This is a book about what it means to find meaning in…well, anything. It uses music – specifically Theres’ amazing talent – as that meaning delivery system. And as the perfect receptacle for Theres’ meaning-implantation we meet Teresa, another young, sad girl. Teresa discovers Theres on the TV talent show “Idol.” Teresa is disconnected as well, but not quite in the same way as Theres. Teresa is lost, uncertain, scared, and very, very broken. Something is missing in Teresa, and Theres’ ability to sing the “truth” just might fill that hole inside her.
I’m very hesitant to reveal more about the plot of “Little Star” because the joy in this book is seeing just how it develops. The story takes a sudden shift about a quater of the way through and becomes something that I found both unexpected and wonderfully refreshing.
Meaning, specifically what meaning means and how it can be defined fuels the narrative of “Little Star.” Meaning can be found not only in music but in paintings, a smile, a plate of pasta, a sunset, anything. “Little Star” is about those who are unable to find any meaning or are unable to interpret – for any number of reasons – what meaning means to them. It’s about those who just can’t find that meaning in the simple and need to find it in others, no matter how terrifying – or violent – those others can become. “Little Star” is not about a man who finds a baby with an impressive singing voice in the woods…well it is, but it’s about so much more. It’s about the birth of a cult. It’s an analysis of the roots of violence. It’s a study of the failings of family. It’s about misery and meaning and the meaning of misery. It’s about everything. It’s about helplessly screaming into the abyss and how sometimes that helpless scream can sound just like ABBA’s “Thank You For The Music.”
“Little Star” is a future horror classic and a firm pronouncement that John Ajvide Lindqvist is a force to reckoned with.
“Little Star” is available now from Thomas Dunne Books.