Total Star Rating: 4.75 Stars
I remember during my senior year of high school I really wanted to switch IT up with what I normally read for some reason. I have never been a big fan of horror, whether IT be in a book or movie, so IT was out of character for me to want to find something spooky/creepy/frightening. My creative writing teacher, Mr. Waltman (a.k.a one of the best teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure of having) immediately recommended this title to me. I had a vague idea about IT beforehand; IT was by that horror guy author, and was about a killer/demon clown…I wasn’t entirely wrong, but as I took IT upon myself to get a copy at the local Barnes & Noble, I had absolutely no idea what kind of story I was truly getting myself into…
I will start off and say that yes, this has to be the most fucked up book I’ve ever read! Pardon my language for any sensitive readers who get offended by crude language, but IT‘s such an accurate and short-but-sweet way to describe my experience reading this substantially thick story. IT‘s so dark and twisted, and I finally began to understand why Stephen King has such a reputation in the literary world as being one of the most influential authors of our time. That opinion may change based on who you ask, but there’s no denying his name and his stories leave an impression on you if you read any of his stories, and on the whole genre. I’m kind of picturing him being the Tolkien of Horror, to be completely honest!
How does someone come up with stuff like this?!?
What It’s About:
This story is about a young group of seven friends in Derry, a small town in Maine, and school gets let out for the summer of 1958. They’re known as a group of outcasts simply known as the “Loser’s Club” (people nowadays can relate to IT with the group of kids in Stranger Things), and their encounter with this supernatural, evil force lurking in the town’s sewer system; stalking children and viciously devouring them. IT‘s a force that only children seem to be able to see and adults are completely unaware of, and ITs most common form is that of a demonic clown known as Pennywise that holds a handful of red balloons. IT‘s an evil force so frightening, so horrifying that IT doesn’t even have a name, IT‘s simply known as “IT.” IT can change ITs appearance into whatever ITs prey fears the most, and attacks the town every 27 years. Over that summer, all seven kids encounter IT, evading IT before IT can kill them unlike so many before, and defeat IT to save themselves and everyone in Derry.
Or so they think…
27 years later, mysterious deaths and disappearances begin to occur again, and the one friend who stayed behind, Mike Hanlon, calls out to the rest of the Loser’s Club to return in order to fulfill their blood promise. The promise that they would all return if the evil shadow over their town ever returned, that if IT was ever once again on the loose, they’d all return and finish what they started…
What I Liked:
- The Intertwining Time Periods! The story goes back and forth between two time periods in the past when they’re all kids and the present when they’ve all grown up. Stephen King masterfully runs both timelines together, revealing more and more as the story progresses. Even though this book is an astounding 1,142 pages, there’s really not a single thing that needs to be taken out or condensed; everything is integral to the story.
- Pennywise The Clown! The villain of this story is perhaps one of the best villains in the history of literature, at least in my humble opinion. Pennywise is a badass of a character. The best way to describe IT is that IT is a shapeshifting demon that takes the form of ITs victim’s biggest fear, because ITs power comes from that fear, IT feeds off of it before IT kills ITs prey. Pennywise is just ITs most common form in the story, so that’s the image that is associated with IT. IT comes out of nowhere in the story, and terrorizes the town every 27 years before IT goes and hibernates in the deep depths of the town’s sewers, and is King’s physical representation of the emotion “fear” and how IT holds us back, IT‘s that insidious voice in our heads that fills us with doubt, and dread and stops us from achieving our goals.
- Stephen King’s Themes! One theme that the author absolutely nails within this story, and also probably in many others of his too, is the sense of innocence and childhood. He captures the essence of friendship with the group dynamic in the story; to dealing with bullies on the playground, to that first crush who doesn’t know you exist, to the adults who roll their eyes as the neighborhood kids all ride by on their bikes to go get into trouble somewhere. IT was surprising while I was reading that IT gave me so much nostalgia of when I was a kid, and would go down my suburban block to play with the other kids my age. We’d play games like Capture the Flag, Ghost in the Graveyard, just about every version of Tag you could think of, or go off exploring somewhere that was usually off limits. Other themes within the story are bullying, grief, childhood trauma, ugliness beneath the facade of a perfect small town, the idea of fear ITself, sexual assault, racism, and child abuse. Yes, what a surprise…A Stephen King novel that talks about dark and taboo subject matter, and tells IT in a creative way. But how crazy is IT to think that subjects like those are still so important, and are seen more often in the news, even when it’s 2019 compared to 1986 when this book was first released?
- The (New) Movie Associated With The Novel! IT‘s been said that the 2017 film is Stephen’s favorite adaptation of ANY of his books. I especially loved IT, and that’s coming from someone who hates horror. There weren’t the cliché jump scares and terribly written plot. Plus, excellent marketing strategies for spacing the 80’s mini series from the recent flick that’s also releasing part two later! Can you guess the time difference?……27 years. 🤡🎈
Things I didn’t Like:
- The Length…Normally, I do like a decent sized book, especially if I get really into the story, but this one was a huge mountain to climb over. IT took me over four months to actually finish! I love books, but I like to be able to read A LOT of books! At least IT felt like a major accomplishment when I finally finished this book!
- The Blood Promise Scene…For anyone who’s read the book already, you know which scene I’m talking about…For those who haven’t, sorry, but I’m not saying a single word on IT. If you want to find out what I mean, I recommend just reading the book yourself! Like I mentioned above, this book is Fucked. Up! IT‘s so dark and I believe I remember hearing somewhere how Stephen King was also in a dark place mentally and emotionally when he wrote this novel. This particular scene though, while IT was disturbing, just didn’t make sense to me in the story. I understood that IT was supposed to represent the loss of childhood innocence, one door opening and stepping forward, but never being able to go back; its powerful stuff, but I feel like the direction that scene went in was a entirely unrealistic and over the top. And IT took place in a sewer too…ew!
- The (Lack Of) Lore Behind Pennywise…I know there’s a particular charm to having a air of mystery surrounding the entity known as “IT,” but personally I really wanted to find out more about the creature. What exactly was IT? Where did IT come from? How long has IT been around? Why pick a small town in Maine? Why come out every 27 years? What are ITs origins? The backstory of what exactly this demonic force was remains unknown, or I just completely missed IT if such information was actually revealed, and I really wish there was more information revealed! I know story wise, IT would’ve been near impossible to include a big reveal, like the kids look IT up in some ancient book in the library, because no one besides them even knows IT exists. Adults are completely unaware of the parasite that casts ITs shadow over the town, so who’d know what they were dealing with? I get IT, but I was frustrated by this and wanted to learn more.
In summary, I’d consider IT to be Stephen King’s masterpiece, and I am aware that I am saying this even though IT‘s the only title of his that I’ve actually read. Like some supernatural force, this story intrigued me, pulled me in like some hypnotic siren’s song, and took me to a place that I never thought I would go to in terms of literature. Consider all that with how this book was just a simple recommendation tossed my way from my high school creative writing teacher.
None of Stephen King’s other titles have had that much of interest to me at that moment in time, and I still say that I am not a horror fan, but this book is an exception to my usual tastes. IT‘s a step way beyond just regular horror…IT excites you, IT stays with you, and IT leaves you up at night, afraid of falling asleep or walking near a storm drain ever again. IT plays on fear, but also uses IT in a sickly, literal way in the form of a demonic force.
To put IT simply:
IT is amazing!
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell