Halloween Reads: IT by Stephen King

IT

I have never been a fan of scary movies or books. The one and only time I read a Goosebumps book while growing up, I was too scared to move from the couch where I sat to read it and couldn’t sleep all night. My poor tolerance for horror and suspense has been a source of distress for me over the years since Joe is a huge horror buff. When we were first dating, he convinced me to watch “Insidious” with him – although I was 21 years old and living with roommates, I slept with the light on in my bedroom for a full week. Because I was a poor graduate student, the next year for his birthday my gift was five “coupons” to watch a scary movie with him. Over the following months, I was tortured by what seemed to be an unending string of suspense and horror films. Eight years later, I am *slightly* more tolerant of horror films, although it still requires cajoling on Joe’s part to get me to agree to watch one.

Joe is a fan of Stephen King – especially IT, which he read in middle school – and even had a group of friends affectionately called the Losers’ Club, after the characters in IT. This past summer, he asked me to read IT in preparation for going to see the film with him for his birthday. Although I was hesitant to jump right into another thousand-plus page book right after Les Miserables, I sat down on my porch one evening and cracked the book open to read.

The book follows seven adults who start to remember terrifying things they had forgotten about their childhood and are drawn back to the town where they grew up in order to fight a nearly-Cthulian monster that lives in the sewers under the town. In a lot of Stephen King’s work, he focuses on the strength of childhood relationships and that theme is central to IT. Because of the strength of their friendship and their trust in one another, the children are able to face It, even though they do not succeed in killing it and must return years later.

One of the first thoughts I had while reading the book was that I finally understood why Stephen King is so popular. His writing is very easy to read – at no point while I was reading did I have to go back and re-read a paragraph to understand what was going on. The flow of the sentences moved naturally from one to the next in a way that was easy to grasp with very little effort at all. His writing is also evocative – when he described the sound of rain falling on the hood of Georgie’s coat, I could hear the exact sound in my head. The best part of the book was, hands down, the characters and the relationship between them. For some of the characters I actually enjoyed the movie’s interpretation better than the original (Richie, for example), but all of them were vivid and real.

The story itself is very straight forward and simple, although the technique King uses to flash back and forth between the Losers’ Club as adults and in childhood keeps things engaging. The ending I found slightly disappointing, however. Despite the emphasis on the their friendship, the adults are all separated when they ultimately defeat It. I had been expecting that they all needed to be together to give one another strength, but the final fight with It felt a little anti-climactic – the tension instead transferred to the cataclysmic destruction of downtown and the collapse of many of the streets and homes that ran above the sewer.

Although IT is a long book, I found it to be a relatively quick read and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would enjoy a horror story. I still don’t think I will become a Stephen King buff, but I am glad I got to read this iconic novel.

⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

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