Thursday, September 30, 2010

Carrie by Stephen King

Title: Carrie
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: April 5th, 1974
Pages: 253 pages

A modern classic, Carrie introduced a distinctive new voice in American fiction- Stephen King. The story of misunderstood high school girl Carrie White, her extraordinary telekinetic powers, and her violent rampage of revenge remains one of the most barrier-breaking and shocking novels of all time.

Make a date with terror- and live the nightmare that is



I've heard about this book for so long as a great and very terrifying book. While I was at a used bookstore, I saw a copy of this and another well-spoken-of Stephen King book and thought, "Why not?" Good God, I'm glad I got Carrie.

High school teen Carietta "Carrie" White grew up with an unbalanced religious fanatic for a mother and without either a father or friends she could rely on. Kept from doing things or buying clothes that the average teen would, the change in her life begins the day of her first menstrual period at age seventeen. The emotional trigger that is pulled that day unlocks her latent telekinetic powers and she starts to put them to use. These powers, combined with one girl named Sue's guilt over what she did to Carrie and her attempts to redeem herself, set the stage for one of the most terrifying and memorable fictional events in modern times: Prom Night, the Black Prom, Carrie's vengeful rampage through the town of Chamberlain.

The strange thing with this book is that you know exactly how it's going to end and what happens, both because Carrie is both an infamous book and movie and because the epistolary form of the novel gives away multiple times that people will die on Prom Night and even who will die. But it doesn't subtract from the suspense at all to be told what happens; I found that it excited me more because it told me what was ahead and made me want to read the accounts of those who were involved instead of third parties who weren't there.

All of the characters felt realistic and flawed to me: Carrie, the shy, abused, and bullied girl who becomes more and more unhinged until she finally breaks; Sue Snell, the girl who did something she regretted and went to great lengths to try and fix what she did in some what; Chris Hargensen, the bully who hurt Carrie for years and just started to get an inkling of a feeling that she was doing something wrong just a little too late; Billy Nolan, the complete monster (okay, so he wasn't as three-dimensional as others); and Margaret White, the severely-unhinged and religiously fanatical mother of Carrie. Everyone had life to them, even characters mentioned only once or twice.

After I was done with the book, I remember Chris's hesitation when it came time to pull the string and dump the pig's blood on Carrie. What if she had decided against it? Would the buckets have remained unpoured and Carrie would have had the best night of her life? After getting along with Freida and other, would Carrie have started to make friends? How would Tommy have dealt with loving both Sue and Carrie? I wanted to know about everything that could have happened, but didn't- it made me want to see an alternate ending. There's the possibility that Billy would have pulled the string after he got sick of Chris's hesitation, but there's also equal chance that he wouldn't have. Yet even if the bucket had remained untouched, there would still be Carrie's mother to think about, who had been planning the whole time to kill Carrie when she got back. Would that have been Carrie's trigger instead of the pig blood? We will never know.

This book gave me one of my favorite moments of all time, one that made me mentally go, "Oh snap!" It was when Chris Hargensen's lawyer dad John Hargensen and Principal Henry Grayle had a mental face-off. Chris was supposed to go to detention for throwing tampons and pads at Carrie and when she didn't, she was suspended for three days and lost her prom tickets. John comes in to try and get the prom rights back for her and a mental face-off the likes of which I have never seen before happens between the two men. While they argued legal mumbo-jumbo back and forth about the rights of the school to punish one of their students and how teachers can handle students, I was on the edge of my seat. Once I was finished with that scene, I went back and read it again just because it was so awesome! Mr. Grayle definitely won that battle, showing off Chris's ugly record like that, along with threatening to sue on Carrie's behalf.

One small point bothered me about the novel, but I'm willing to let it slide. This novel is told in epistolary form with excerpts from fake books and accounts from people who lived in Chamberlain then. Yet this book contains Carrie's point of view when it's never seen that she write in a journal or leaves behind records; Tommy's thoughts and feelings just before his death are in here too, along with Margaret White's. When these characters die without leaving behind any records, where would these bits come from? This is my first true epistolary, but I would think that the entire book would have to be made up of records of some sort, not just pieces of it. I'll give it a pass because it's my first epistolary (my issue might have to do with being an idealist and not knowing how they work) and because it's in third-person. We don't ask about who the narrator is in every third -person book, do we? Exactly.

How could I not give this book a perfect rating? It was suspenseful, terrifying, classic, and I couldn't stand to put it down! (It also helps that if I gave it even four stars, the fictional and ghostly spirit of Carrie would come and kill me, according to my wild daynightmares.) I highly recommend this book; after reading it, you will more than likely see why Stephen King has become so popular. If you will excuse me, I'm going to go find the movie on television.

5 stars!