Review – Carrie by Stephen King

carrieCarrie was Stephen King’s first published novel.  It put him on the map and the earnings from the book and subsequent movie allowed him to become a full time writer.  Thank you, Carrie!

This is really three stories:

– A young girl who is bullied relentlessly throughout her school years.

– A mother who is a zealot that uses religion as a weapon against her daughter.

– A girl who is learning about her latent telekinetic skills.

Carrie starts with the infamous shower scene.  She has gotten her first menstrual cycle (unusually late in her teenage years) and has no idea what is happening because her mother has never spoken of it.  The other girls are unbelievably horrible to her.  Throwing napkins and tampons while screaming at her.  Even the PE teacher has little to no sympathy for her at first.

The narrative jumps around to different time periods.  We learn that Carrie did something that caused many people to die.  There is an investigation into telekinesis and what could have been done to prevent it.  At other times, we go back in time to learn more about Carrie’s past and the nightmare she has been living with her mother.

One of the girls from the shower, Sue, starts to feel guilty for her part.  Deep down she does seem to be a ‘good girl’ but the mob mentality that takes over is hard to resist.  Sue talks her boyfriend into asking Carrie to the prom to give her the opportunity to experience that night.  He agrees and Carrie says yes.  She knows his motivation but still is determined to try to turn her life around.  She defies her mother and makes her own dress for the dance.  Everyone probably knows how this ends.  The primary bully, Chris, is not a nice girl and wants revenge for being banned from the prom due to the shower incident.  She and her boyfriend arrange the ultimate humiliation for Carrie.  It doesn’t end well for anyone in town.

What’s most interesting to me is that Carrie becomes a psychopath who kills without caring if they were her real enemies.  She treats the town as her enemy and maybe it is.  Even though she is now a mass murderer, the reader’s sympathy stays with her throughout.  There were so many decisions that everyone else made that could have prevented this massacre.  Carrie just reached the boiling point and couldn’t take it any more.  It is tough to read – raw and painful.

Personal note: I think this book resonates with me because I remember this struggle from middle, junior and high school.  Girls can be mean and I’ve been on both sides of the scenario.  I was teased for wearing a back brace in middle school for scoliosis and the other girls took a kind of evil glee in seeing my pain.  I wasn’t that strong and started to leave it off during the day – hiding it so that my parents wouldn’t know.  Now, having said that, I can also remember being sucked into teasing another girl when it seemed like the cool thing to do.  Most kids are trying so hard to fit in and they haven’t yet built the empathy needed to stop themselves from inflicting this hurt.  One of things I regret most is picking on this girl for no reason just to fit in.  I sincerely hope she is out in the world kicking butt now!

5/5 stars.  Even though King has written better novels in the past 40 years, the talent shown here is undeniable.  He captured the struggles of a teenage girl finding out about herself and her body, the pain of bullying – he really did hit the nail on the head with the meanness of some of the girls in schools.  It makes me worry for my nieces who are moving on to junior high and high school.  I hope things have changed.  Or, at least, they are strong enough to stand up for themselves and also resist the temptation to fit in.

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