Carrie by Stephen King
First published by Doubleday in 1974
Genres: Horror, Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository
Carrie knew she should not use
the terrifying power she possessed…
So this one was meant to be my Halloween read, but I ended up not finishing it until recently. Not because it wasn’t good, but because I’m lazy and I procrastinate.
Everyone most likely already know what Carrie is about, even without having ever read the book or watched any of the movies, but this review needs a short summary anyway.
Carrie White has the power of telekinesis. She’s in high school, badly bullied and completely alone. Her mother isn’t much help, a religious fantastic, probably psychotic, who shelters Carrie to the extreme. When one of the school’s most popular boys asks Carrie to prom she can’t believe it’s actually happening and for the first time in her life she’s happy and hopeful. Little does she know that someone has a horrible plan for her and that that prom will be referred to as the Black Prom for years to come.
Finally, helpless, she said: “Do you like me?”
He said: “You’re beautiful.”
After that dramatic summary, let’s move on. I didn’t actually know much about the story of Carrie before I read it. Unlike the rest of the world I hadn’t seen any of the movie adaptations, so all I knew about it is from what I read in King’s On Writing (though I skimmed some of the stories about Carrie because I didn’t want to be spoiled). I knew about the bullying and the telekinesis and shit going down at the prom, and of course the infamous locker room scene, but that was it. That sounds like a lot but it’s not really.
If you don’t know the locker room scene, oh boy, let me tell you. The novel starts off with that scene and it really illustrates both Carries problem with bullies and her mother’s abuse and neglect. Carrie gets her first period in the showers and thinks she’s going to die, as she has no idea what it is because her mother never told her (she’s 16 years old). The other girls notice and start to throw hygiene products at her while laughing and screaming “Plug it up!” Meanwhile Carrie cries, still thinking she’s dying. One of the girls end up with a bloody hand-print on her skirt. It’s awful and humiliating and so effective. Damn ballsy way to open up a novel.
Carrie is an extremely uncomfortable book to read, mostly because of Carrie’s mother Margaret, who is the real monster here. Carrie is just the victim of her “religious mania,” there’s only so much you can take before you snap. What an awful woman, she gave me major creeps. She’s abusive, both physically and mentally. She’s obsessed with “sinning” and locks Carrie inside a closet every time she “sins” (getting your period is a sin, by the way, because that means you haven’t been able to stop yourself from having dirty thoughts). Margaret calls breasts “dirtypillows.” That says something.
I didn’t know that this book was written in an epistolary form. That was neat. It consists of parts from Carrie’s point of view, but it also contains snippets from books written by survivors of the Black Prom, interviews with various people, research papers and essays (about Carrie and telekinesis) etc. It makes the events seem real when you see things like “From The Shadow Exploded (p. 131):” and “My Name Is Susan Snell (p. 45).”
“Nothing can change [Carrie] back now from something made out of newsprint into a person. But she was, and she hurt. More than any of us probably know, she hurt. And I’m so sorry and I hope it was good for her, that prom. Until the terror began, I hope it was good and fine and wonderful and magic…”
I gave this book 4/5 stars. I thought it was great but I could have been a little bit more invested in it, so that pulls away a star. I wanted it to be a little bit scarier to, but to be fair, what’s scarier than Margaret White and the wrath of bullies? Not much.
Have you read it? What do you think?