I need to give a huge thank you to Shannon over at Shannon’s Shelves for letting me use her wonderful photo to feature this spoiler free review.
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Fiction, Horror, Thriller
Publisher: Scribner, January 5th 2016 (first published in 1986)
Synopsis: To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered, a good place to live. It was the children who saw – and felt – what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, It lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each person’s deepest dread. Sometimes It reached up, seizing, tearing, killing…
The adults, knowing better, knew nothing. Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of It was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until the grown-up children were called back, once more to confront It as It stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.
Frightening, epic, and brilliant, Stephen King’s It is one of the greatest works of a true storytelling master.
It’s taken me a few weeks to find the right words to express my feelings about Stephen King’s famous book, It. It took me even longer to read the beast of a book, a task I was only able to complete with the help of Audible. I took over listening to the audiobook, narrated by Steven Weber, about halfway through my physical copy. I chose to transition because I found myself having more free time on my weekly commutes than anywhere else, and Steven Weber’s performance was nothing shy of brilliant.
The size of this novel was daunting, but its depth of both character and plot grips you once the different vantages begin to melt together. For me, that was about two hundred pages in. I felt myself sink into the Losers’ Club just as the losers were getting to know one another in that summer of 1958. We had already seen them as adults—in fact, we had already been given fractions of their true “end points”—and then we see them as children, basking in the freedom of the summer and living the trials and errors of what it means to be young.
King takes seven characters and shapes them into tangible individuals; each member of the Losers’ Club is so distinct, that by the end of the novel I felt as if I could have had a conversation with them and been able to predict each of their responses in turn. We receive so much background about these characters that by the end, we understand them better than we understand most of our friends or acquaintances. When I had listened to the last page of my audiobook read aloud, I found I had to sit the rest of the car ride in silence, the space left by the end of such a long novel resting heavily in the passenger seat beside me.
“Maybe there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends – maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely.”
To be fair, there were certain moments of It I felt could have been omitted or abbreviated. Namely, the build-up at the beginning. Derry’s history is crucial to King’s writing of this story. That’s very clear both by the way Mike handles his journaling of the town and the different points of view he includes for the sole purpose of showing just how far Pennywise’s terror stretches into the past. However, after having read the book in its entirety, I can say that the story would maintain its impact even if some of these longer glimpses into Derry’s past were not included.
The terror of this book was far beyond what I expected before picking it up off my shelf. King is a master at his craft, and is able to build a feeling of dread that stretches pages, chapters even. That, paired with the swearing, bullying, racism, homophobia, sex, domestic/child abuse, and blood and guts makes this novel difficult to swallow at times, but all of these things add to the overlying theme of how fear affects people. The uncomfortable moments were intentional and handled with care… and not handled with any kind of care when the situation called for it.
And that brings me to a subject that has both intrigued and appalled readers since the novel’s publication in 1986—the bridge between adolescence and adulthood, and how King handled the appearance of adulthood in the young characters. Without spoiling anything, I will say that I feel the scene in the sewers and the bond between the Losers’ Club was a clear depiction of the themes of loss of innocence that run throughout the story, and bridged the gape between their adult story and the story of children trying to defeat the “Eater of Worlds.” King himself has commented on the climactic scene, saying that times have changed since he wrote that scene, and there is now more sensitivity to those kinds of issues. The scene was included because it was the only way for the Losers to be together again. “Grown ups don’t remember their childhood. None of us remember what we did as children. We think we do, but we don’t remember it as it really happened.”
Overall, this story left a gaping hole in my stomach the moment it was over. With the new 2017 adaptation and consequent rise of pop culture surrounding the Loser’s Club, there is plenty to help fill that empty space, but the sentiment remains; this novel will be with me for quite a long time.