Review: Carrie by Stephen King

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Paperback, 290 pages
Published August 30th 2011 by Anchor Books (first published April 5th 1974)
Original Title
Carrie
ISBN
0307743667 (ISBN13: 9780307743664)
Edition Language
English

Synopsis:

A modern classic, Carrie introduced a distinctive new voice in American fiction — Stephen King. The story of misunderstood high school girl Carrie White, her extraordinary telekinetic powers, and her violent rampage of revenge, remains one of the most barrier-breaking and shocking novels of all time.

Make a date with terror and live the nightmare that is…Carrie

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Review:

In my infinite wisdom of biting off tasks that I probably will never accomplish, I have decided to start reading through all of Stephen King’s books, in order of publication. The start of this is Carrie, a novel of his I had never read, but I’ve watched, and loved, the DePalma film several times. So even though this film is relatively faithful to the book, I was still surprised by how different it is. We all know the story of Stephen King getting frustrated with rejection and throwing this manuscript in the trash, only to have his wife pull it out and continue to submit it, the rest being horror history. This was published in 1974, so we are predating the boom of great horror. Texas Chainsaw Massacre does not appear until later that year. Halloween is not for another four years. Horror movies do exist but they are more like The Other and The Night Stalker, and even though The Exorcist is published in 1971, it in not until it is made into a movie in 1973 that it turns the genre on its head.I have no evidence that the success of the film adaptation of The Exorcist is linked to another novel with about a teenage girl with powers (one demonic, one telekinetic) with a huge religious undertones, but it is hard not to think they might have crossed in publishing decision making path. Carrie White is much different than Regan MacNeil, and even though we have empathy for both teenage girls, Carrie White seems to be one of those girls that you just want to rescue from the plot. There is no safe space for her. She is mercilessly teased and bullied at school, and home is a mother who is brutally religious and abusive. Carrie has no one in this novel to turn to, so this makes the reader feel as if he would be her friend, would be the person who would hold her hand, support her, and get her through this. The only person in the novel who even tries this is Rita Dejardans, the gym teacher, and even her ability to reach her is limited. The only person that Carrie has to turn to is her audience, and we can do nothing but watch and wish things were different.

That is what makes Carrie so effective. The way that the reader feels like her only ally, who sees the entire, horrible picture unfold, and even though we wish we can warn her, we cannot do anything. Instead we feel sadness, rage, and pain right along with Carrie White. We are emotionally involved, and when the Prom Night events unfold, we are still right there, behind Carrie, watching her do what needs to be done. 

For the strength of the plot and characters, some of the writing is just not good. There are a few paragraphs that are head scratchers, not understanding what King was trying to say, and it’s just best to keep moving. There is a moment where King describes Carrie’s face covered in blood as an equivalent to blackface in the Song of the South Disney movie, neither of which (the description nor the film) has aged well at all. And there are some points where the quick flipping between the current action and the future reports of the things that happened (The White Commission, memoirs from survivors, and texts on telekinetic forces) that feel unneeded. Even with all of these minor problems, the book is still Carrie and the character of Carrie White is the novel character with whom I have created the most emotional attachment. I will love her forever.

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