I read my first Stephen King book when I was thirteen. Since then, I’ve read a decent number of other books by King, including a couple books of short stories and his writing memoir. I’m not a huge fan of horror, so I tend to pick books like 11/22/63 over novels like The Shining. But I was still curious to read King’s debut novel, Carrie. So when I saw that it fit this month’s prompt for the Reading New England Challenge, I decided to go for it.
Carrie White is an outcast. The daughter of a fanatically religious mother, she has grown up with surprisingly little knowledge about the world around her. When, at sixteen, she gets her first period in the gym showers at school, she assumes she’s dying. Instead of helping Carrie, the other girls torment her. Which leads Carrie to discover (remember?) that she has telekinetic powers. As she realizes her own strength, she learns to stand up for herself, especially against her zealous mother, and gain confidence. But those who antagonized her want revenge for their punishment. So they set her up to be elected Prom Queen and when she reluctantly takes the stage for her coronation, a bucket of pig’s blood is dropped on her – we all know that scene. Humiliated, Carrie is unable to control her rage and uses her powers to unleash horror and destruction on the entire town.
Carrie was completely different than what I was expecting, even though I was familiar with the story, having watched the movie adaptation – the original, Sissy Spacek one – several years ago. I really enjoyed that a lot of the story was told through documents about “Prom Night,” as the incident was called throughout the book. King somehow managed to distance readers from his characters, in almost a clinical way, while still giving great insight into their thoughts and personalities. I have no idea how he did that, but it worked really well. I also liked that the story was told from several different perspectives, especially since Carrie isn’t aware of too much (particularly at the beginning of the novel) because of the way she was raised. Since I’ve read more recent King novels, it is clear that this was definitely one of his earlier works – his writing has definitely gotten better since then. That said, it was still really well-written for a debut. Personally, there is just something about this style of writing that isn’t my favorite (I can’t describe it well, but it’s a quality I definitely associate with the 1960s and 70s), but I did still enjoy Carrie.
Overall, I’m glad I finally read Carrie. I’m not planning on reading everything Stephen King has ever written, but I like his writing enough to want to read his more famous works – The Green Mile and Under the Dome are some of the others still on my TBR. This may not be my favorite book of all time, but I liked it, and it’s one of those books that, as an aspiring writer, I feel like I should read because its so iconic – its basically a part of pop culture at this point, which is a rare feat for any book. I should also mention that I read Carrie to fulfill part of the Reading New England Challenge I’m taking part in – the theme for March was a book set in Maine – because otherwise it probably would have been a while before I picked it up. I’d recommend Carrie to 1) fans of Stephen King, obviously; 2) anyone who appreciates classic horror; and 3) any writers or aspiring writers (if only because of the interesting writing style and iconic story).
If you’ve read Carrie, let me know what you thought of it. I’d also love to hear what your favorite Stephen King books are, so feel free to share that in the comments as well!