Book Review: It by Stephen King

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Photo via Goodreads.

Title: It
Author: Stephen King
Date Read: September 8th – September 16th, 2016
Date Reviewed: September 18th, 2016
Spoilers Ahead?: Yes!

Introduction: I heard there was a new It movie coming out through Collider Movie Talk on Youtube, so I decided that I wanted to watch not only the new movie, but the Tim Curry one. I had recently rewatched Rocky Horror and Clue and I remembered how much I loved Tim Curry as a child, so why not watch a horror film with him in it when I’m an adult? I prefer to read the books before the movie, so going in I can understand any plot holes the films leave hanging around. It took me a long while to find this book, but when I did I started reading it ASAP. And for over 1100 pages, I managed to finish it in under two weeks.

Quick Summary: Derry, Maine is a small town with a big problem – It. It, a dark creature, is killing kids left and right, and it seems to appear in a cycle, about every thirty years. When a group of kids that were not killed by It come back to Derry, they are going to have to face their greatest fear – Pennywise.

Evaluations: In short, this book is super weird, but it is also well written and the plot was well thought up. I was under the impression this book would just be about some psycho killer clown, but it is so much more! Pennywise/Robert Gray/It is not just a clown, he/it is a supernatural entity. You can tell that this is true through how it changes into different creatures throughout the novel (vampire, werewolf, mummy, the dead kids, Pennywise, spider, etc). I wasn’t impressed by the fact that this was supernatural, since I really wanted Stephen King to just write some strange killer clown story, but somehow that supernatural aspect was the only negative part of the book. Every chapter has a reason for being there (even if some of them are painful to get through or seem worthless when you are reading it. I’m not kidding, for a while someone is making a hamburger) and everything ends up connecting at the end or becoming part of the theme. There is definitely some weirder scenes that seem out of place – Beverly sleeps with all the boys out of nowhere – but if you try to pick apart themes within this work, you can place these strange scenes for that purpose.
Overall, I liked it! It did require me to do some research as to why the weird scenes exist so I would understand why they were necessary, but the book was worth it.

Plot: The plot is relatively simple – a supernatural entity (We’ll call it Pennywise in this review), kills kids every thirty years or so in a cycle. It kills Bill’s brother, and goes after Bill and six of his friends. The kids somehow escape Derry and end up coming back to Derry as an adult when Pennywise has reappeared in the cycle to kill more kids. Bill, Bev, Eddie, Ben, Mike, Richie, and Stan come back as adults, and they have to remember how they got rid of It as kids. And then, they decide they are going to kill It for good.

That is the 1100 plot in short – there is definitely a lot going on in this book. A lot of tough subjects are brought up in the book and written relatively well (abuse, childhood, innocence, homophobia, racism, sexism, imagination, among others), but there were some points that left me a little bitter.

Stephen King has Beverly sleep with all the men/boys (when I read the novel, I took it as a kid she slept with all the boys and made them lose their virginity, but some readers have expressed they believe it happens when they are adults. Stephen King does not always make it clear in the novel when he hops along the timeline). This chapter sat rather strange with me because she had not interacted with other boys in that way before, yet she somehow knew what she was doing and had relatively no pain. It wasn’t realistic (I know this is a supernatural story) and it just didn’t sit well with me. It also, at first, doesn’t make sense why in the world this is included other than to make this a more rated R story, but it fits into some of the theming within the novel.

I also had an issue with the nonlinear aspect of the novel. I appreciated the novel jumping back and forth from childhood to adulthood with these characters, but I would have liked the chapter to express that everytime it jumped so I wasn’t left wondering which timeline version of Pennywise they injured and how certain relationships kept going back and forth from great to meh.

Characters: “It” has a lot of characters, so I’m only going to focus on a few of them.
Pennywise – The demonic entity with many names was an interesting character. Stephen King does write in Pennywise’s point of view, and I felt like that kind of ruined the mystery of Pennywise. Up until that point, I was excited for Pennywise’s scenes and I was trying to figure out his motives, but then when the POV came around it ruined it all for me.
Once I got over Pennywise being a demonic entity and not just a really cool psycho clown, Pennywise becomes an interesting character. It induces fear into children and does not appear to adults (minus the kids that then become Adults, and somehow Bill’s wife Audra). I was left wondering why this demon kills kids, and there wasn’t much of an explanation that I found. Perhaps after further research I may find theories from others, but I was really left hanging.
The character was scary, and that was great for this novel! When Pennywise did appear, whether it was as the clown, the spider or anything else, it was thrilling. He was well written, so I’m impressed!

Beverly – Beverly is the only female in the Losers’ Club, and as both a child and as an adult she appears to be the sex symbol. She slept with all the boys, Bill and Ben love her, and she has constant abuse against her from her Father and her Husband. I wish Stephen King wrote better female characters – strong ones, independent ones, not totally sexualized ones – but alas, he does not. His male characters shine! His females seem to suffer.
The aspect I liked about Beverly was I could fit her to the theming of this novel. While she may not be a strong, independent woman, she can help a reader tear apart of the themes!

Bill / Audra – Bill is kind of the main character throughout the story, and his wife is Audra (he also cheats with Bev because he still loves her, but those feelings disappear as soon as they sleep together even though they both enjoyed it together more than with their spouses). Bill stutters, and as soon as Pennywise is gone at the end of the story he doesn’t stutter anymore. Of course, because he’s the main character he gets a hot wife, and he gets his school boy crush to sleep with him, because he’s the main character. He also becomes a famous writer and gets super rich!!
But aside from his character, it’s his part of the plot  that frustrated me. While Bill is a smart character and his action/horror scenes are great, he leaves some plot holes for reader speculation. His stutter disappearing makes me wonder what caused them, and it really left me hanging. Readers have theories, but not one distinct one. Also, near the end of the novel Audra is essentially comatose, yet when she gets in their vehicle and they start driving she’s magically back to normal. Was this because Pennywise is gone? Because they left Derry? There’s no explanation, and again, readers can’t agree on the why, just that is happened.

Themes/Creativity: This book is super creative and has theming. Whoever comes up with a clown that is also a vampire, mummy, frankenstein’s monster, werewolf and spider and can make a best selling book out of it is clearly creative.

But now for the themes.
Adolescence/Childhood/Innocence/Imagination/etc – Stephen King addresses the move from innocence into experience well. Bullying, familial issues, crushes and more situations that kids face are addressed in this novel. He does an excellent job, and I could go on and on about the hundreds of scenes he has written, but I want to address one theme within this one.
Beverly sleeping with all the boys appears to be out of place, until you start placing themes together. When you read the chapter before, Beverly figures out how they must destroy Pennywise. (When you read in the story that Eddie makes his asthma inhaler spray out acid at Pennywise, this connects as well) Bev decides to sleep with all the boys and take their virginity – at first it seems very odd, but then you realize she is taking their innocence away from them. In some strange way, this shows the move from innocence to experience. To be able to defeat Pennywise, they need to be able to be imaginative, but they also have to eventually become adults.
The Losers’ Club couldn’t have kids, which shows they are more “innocent” than “experienced”. An adult has to lie to children and make kids believe it, yet they know that they are not telling the truth. They can tell a lie like it’s honest, like warning kids not to go out at night because there are clowns in the storm drain. Adults might know that is not true, but they can lie and make it seem true. Kids would believe this, and then they would try to think up ways to kill this evil clown so they can stay out later – like acid from the asthma medication. It tastes like acid, so why isn’t it acid? Kids have wild imaginations, and only when they move from innocence to experience do they lose some of their imagination.

King also addresses topics such as racism, sexism, domestic abuse, prejudice, and more, but I wanted to focus on that adolescence topic. In all of his themes, he does a magnificent job.

Uniqueness: After reading Carrie, I can definitely say this book is unique. Not only for just any old writer, but for Stephen King. It addresses theories yet is a thriller/horror novel. It has a clown that is a demonic entity that is also every fear the kids have come to life. This book is definitely unique, and I haven’t found anything like it!

Strengths: Stephen King putting themes into the novel was a real strength. The fact that I could pick apart the novel and try to make theories made my inner fan girl self super happy.
The plot all being significant to the story was also a real strength. Most novels have filler chapters, but everything mattered in this book!
The time line – while it is also a major weakness, jumping from the past to the present helped build the story!

Weaknesses:
The women were really stale – I would love for Stephen King to write a strong, female character in the future.
The demonic entity was a bit of a let down / weakness. The “big reveal” of the supernatural aspect leaves a lot of readers feeling cheated. I would have rather the kids just have wild imaginations that made them see vampires and werewolves chasing them since they were told not to stay out after 7pm rather than the demon becoming those creatures.
The timeline – more notice about what time period the chapters were in would have been nice.

Score: 5 out of 5. Throughout this entire novel I was glued to it! Rarely do I find a novel where every page has me hooked (especially a 1100 page novel!).

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briarsreviews

I'm a Canadian book, television and film reviewer. I accept review requests! Feel free to leave a comment if you are interested in specific reviews. I accept review requests on this website or via briarramses@gmail.com

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