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Book review: IT, by Stephen King

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Book review: IT, by Stephen King

A trio of amateur heroines battle an evil, lawsuit-happy science-fiction cult in the first novel in the Neitherlands series.

Book review: IT, by Stephen King


by Stephen King
September 15, 1986
Review rating 5/5

It feels like coming home again…

I first read this book as a teenager, back when I was fifteen years old. Back then, I felt it was a masterpiece of horror written by an extremely talented author who managed to not just keep the narrative tension consistent throughout the whole book, but also who managed to genuinely scare you. It was the first time I felt genuinely scared reading a book, as not even other King books had managed to.

I read it again last year, fifteen years later. This time I was much more critical of the writing quality, having read a few hundred novels in between and written a couple of them myself. So some of the issues I couldn’t have noticed as a fifteen-year-old jumped at me easily: the book is glaringly overwritten at parts and King does several things, like a constant use of parentheses, he would later speak against. Nevertheless, even when I can see its flaws more clearly now, my original take on the book remains mostly intact: For all of its flaws, this is a remarkable achievement and a book I wanted to start reading a third time as soon as I finished it a second time.

Yet there’s more to it than horror, if you dare take a peek behind the veil…

The main details of the storyline are well-known, so I’ll spare my readers a long recap and simply state what I expect they already known: This is a novel about a clown who eats children. That’s the gist of it, or at least the part of the novel that has always been a part of the mainstream imagination. It is also what I would have said about the novel just a year or two ago. Reading it a second time, however, one thing struck me like a brick — something I couldn’t have possible noticed as a teenager: A massive amount of nostalgia permeates this whole book.

Just a year ago I remembered Stephen King’s IT as a masterpiece of horror, which it truly is. But today, reading it as an adult, I can also see beyond that façade and understand King’s main intent on writing this book was writing a coming-of-age story to trump all others, and on that he succeeded. While the main story weaves a decidedly dark tale, the real charm in the book comes from its characters and its relationships to one another. Thematically speaking, the book bases every single scene in seven kids who are growing up — and more specifically, who are going through their own sexual awakening — and it goes to great lengths to describe how the experience of growing up is for them. It spends many long paragraphs, at times too many and too long, describing things as simple as a baseball game or how things used to be in Derry back when our seven protagonists were children.

And those things only make the book better, barring those parts that are just overwritten.

This is one of the few books I’ve read twice in my life, and one of the even fewer books I’d take for a third spin. And I sure will, once enough time has passed that I can be sure I’ll have a new take on it. As for anyone who might be on the fence about it, all I can say is… read it. This book isn’t perfect, as I mentioned already, and sure there are couple things in it that don’t make sense along with the odd scene (ahem…) that should have never made it to print at all. But it is also a masterpiece in its flawed state, and one anyone who loves horror or who’s looking to understand the works of Stephen King should count among his read books. If you only ever read one Stephen King book, you should make this one that book — The Shining and The Stand be damned.

Though both those books are also excellent, so if you only read three of them adding them to your list should be mandatory.

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