by John Adjvide Lindqvist
Thomas Dunne Books (2012)
After Lindqvist tackled vampires, zombies, and ghosts with his three previous novels, I saw the title "Little Star" and half-expected a novel with aliens. Nope. Lindqvist had something entirely different in mind, but there was definitely an alien quality to the main character in this novel. And just like his previous novels, a very strong sense of dread.
Lennart discovers a baby buried and abandoned in the middle of the woods. Lennart, a washed-up musician, hears her plaintive cries and sees a second chance at fame with this little star in the making, because her voice is so unnaturally perfect that it's almost mesmerizing. He takes her home and keeps her hidden in the basement where she's raised. His stark shift in behavior worries his wife and eventually draws the attention of his estranged son, Jerry, who discovers the child and blackmails them for money in exchange for silence. It's an incredibly strange and altogether engaging family dynamic, as the little girl grows to become a young teen with no knowledge of the outside world, with music as her only companion. It is near the end of the first act when a terrible event occurs that leaves Lennart and his wife dead, and Jerry left to care for Theres.
It's a startling shift in the story, which sends the lives of Jerry and Theres spiraling along a path that seems destined for ruin. And yet, through an almost inconceivable series of events, Theres winds up on the stage auditioning for Swedish Idol, wowing judges and viewers with her immaculate voice, though her odd--almost robotic--behavior prevents her from fully realizing her dreams of reaching a large audience. Enter Teresa. She's a girl of nearly the same age as Theres, and despite her academic gifts is unable to really empathize with anyone or anything. She herself feels a bit like a robot, but when she sees Theres perform on TV something inside sparks to life. From there, it's pretty clear the two girls are destined to meet, and when they do, the true nature of each girl comes to bear.
Lindqvist took a holiday from the overtly supernatural with this novel, but the weird was on full display. The book lagged in the middle for me, but I think that's because the first act wound up ending on such a wild climax that the second act felt like some kind of reset button had been hit. It took a while for the story to reveal itself, as Lennart's story ended and Jerry's began, followed soon by Teresa's. If you can stick through the book though, the ending packs a serious whollup. Little Star may be the weakest of the three Lindqvist novels I've read (Let the Right One In and Harbor), but it still wound up one of the best novels I read in 2012.