Carrie by Stephen King is one of those classic King books that everyone has heard about – or they’ve seen the movie. This month I decided to raid my husband’s Stephen King collection and try some of this author’s earlier books. Carrie was Stephen King’s very first published novel and it almost wasn’t published after Stephen threw his draft away. Luckily, his wife found it in the trash, dusted it off and urged him to keep working on it. And the rest is history.
At its heart Carrie is a simple story about a bullied teenage girl with newly discovered powers who gets pushed too far by others with devastating consequences that terrorise a whole town. Even though I’ve never read this before, or seen any of the film adaptions, I felt this story was familiar. It’s a story of how being different at school can be isolating and how teenagers can be influenced by the pack mentality to gang up on someone who doesn’t fit in. But I didn’t know how the book would be written. Stephen King writes it from different perspectives: Carrie’s point-of-view, teachers, students, incident reports, snippets of books that people wrote on the subject after the event that takes place in the novel. Given that this was Stephen King first novel, I found the plot structure ambitious and interesting.
Carrie is a girl whose extraordinary powers get activated when she gets her first period. Her home life is lived under the shadow of her scary, very religious mother. Carrie has never fitted in at school and my heart really went out to her. Teenage girls can be the worst. But I don’t condone the vengeful path that Carrie takes.
I won’t go into too much more detail as Carrie is a pretty short book and I don’t want to give away the whole plot. It’s quite a bittersweet book because there’s a moment when Carrie gets to feel special and ‘normal.’ There’s the possibility of her life going in a positive direction, but then something happens to destroy that. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted as there is a bit of gore involved. But you can be like me and speed read or skip over those bits.
In the intro to Carrie, Stephen King writes about how he based Carrie on two girls he knew from his school days who both didn’t get a chance in life due to their difference and family circumstances. The true horror in Carrie is not the supernatural elements, but the bad things people do to each other and the pain they can inflict. There’s nothing scarier than human nature at its worst.
Verdict: I’m glad to have finally read this Stephen King classic. It’s not a favourite Stephen King book of mine, but I found it well worth reading.