You Let Me In is an eerie gothic novel about the life of one woman and how stories can be true and false at once. Novelist Cassandra Tipp has disappeared, and left behind a long manuscript, a letter to her niece and nephew that starts to unfold the truth behind the murders that she is infamous in the local area for being somehow involved with, though her guilt could never be proven. As her narrative progresses, it is clear there are two stories: one of faeries in the woods, gifts, and blood, and another of a girl mistreated, tormented and tormenting, who imagined an alternate reality. The question is, what to believe?
This is a distinctively written novel which uses a metafictional framing device to pose questions about whether the protagonist lived a life of magic, abuse, or both. As with a lot of modern gothic novels, the gothic elements are there to be questioned as they seem to stand in for terrible realities, but also to feel like a fleshed out, supernatural world. The quirks of the narrative voice—from the bookending sections written as hypotheticals to elements of style and naming—create some of the atmosphere, particularly around the horror of Cassandra’s faerie companion, with whom she has a twisted relationship spanning her entire life. Don’t expect answers with this book: the ambiguities are purposefully there to leave the readers, both fictional and real, asking questions and wondering which stories were meant to be ‘true’ and what ‘true’ might even mean.
You Let Me In is a good example of how the use of supernatural can blur the line between ‘it was all people making it up’ and ‘the monsters were real’. It is a novel that self-consciously only gives the reader as much as the protagonist is being shown to want to share, and is a creepy story however you interpret the narrative. The gothic is a genre for using the imaginative work of the reader as part of the thrill, and that is what You Let Me In does, asking you to be Cassandra’s audience and consider the narrative options. This ambiguity won’t be for everyone, but it suits the novel and genre well.