Review by J.T. Johnson
I must admit that over time, you are going to see Stephen King’s name quite a bit with this ongoing series of book reviews. When compiling a list of books that I would like to read over time, King ended up with his own list due to all the stories he has written over his forty year career. It is also good that I’m reviewing King’s first published novel, “Carrie”, just before he releases his latest creation, “The Outsider”, on May 22.
I had read “Carrie” back in high school, but couldn’t really remember it when I recently revisited the story. I forgot, for instance, that the book is broken up into pieces. There are more traditionally written scenes, taking place during the book’s “present” and featuring the perspective of several different characters throughout. These segments are broken up by different news reports, commission reports and excerpts of other novels written after something deadly happened in Chamberlain, Maine.
Using this rather unique storytelling structure, King is able to use his signature foreshadowing of sinister events. For example, he will reveal that a character will die soon in the excerpts and then it is about the journey to see how certain characters meet their certain ends. One thing is for sure, the main story is set around Carietta “Carrie” White and her strange telekinetic abilities.
Carrie is a seventeen year old that has been picked on her whole life for her looks, her clothes, her reclusive lifestyle and her relationship with her fundamentalist Christian mother, Margaret. Her mother is so fanatical that if she even catches any sort of hint, either real or imagined, that Carrie has committed sin, she will abuse her daughter and send her to a closet to pray the sins away. What most people don’t know, however, is that Carrie has telekinetic abilities that start off slow at first, but then they escalate until things inevitably get deadly.
As the book progresses, the theme is feminist in nature, something even King himself has stated in the past. When the final insult takes place on Prom Night, Carrie begins taking power into her own hands and starts to tear down, quite literally, the establishments that have held her down for far too long.
More than the feminist tone, though, is the fact that this story could also be seen as the ultimate lesson against bullying. You may pick on someone now, but that person may have the ability to fight back one day. Sadly, we live in a world where both feminism is needed and bullying is still a problem, making the themes of this book very relevant even today.
Being his first book, this isn’t King’s best work. He often interrupts the flow of the story with thoughts peppered throughout that interrupts the middle of certain sentences. I found this to be more of a distraction than a clever narrative device. However, “Carrie” definitely shows off King’s raw and very visible talent for telling extraordinary horror stories.
I was hooked on this book from the first page and couldn’t stop reading. King’s legacy began here and it is one hell of a start for one of the best writers of his generation.