Book Review: It by Stephen King

cover to It by Stephen King, via New English Library 1987
© New English Library, 1987.

This review contains spoilers for the book and its film adaptations, namely the most recent rendition.

Synopsis:


“To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live.

It was the children who saw – and felt – what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .

The adults, knowing better, knew nothing.

Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.” (Source: Goodreads)

Review:


If you’re looking for an absolute tome of horror to read, It by Stephen King definitely fits that bill. I still prefer The Stand over this book, though. Wrought with the horrific trials visited upon children in the town of Derry, Maine, readers learn to love and loathe an extremely wide range of characters. While much of this book is entertaining, there are a few things I simply cannot condone.

There’s a few scenes in here that are sexually graphic. This isn’t uncommon in the horror market, and normally doesn’t bother me. Only, I made the mistake of laughing off one of my ex’s remarks regarding pre-pubescent intercourse and circle-jerking. I’m throwing that out there, in case it’s something my readers wish to steer clear of. Not only that, but… Let’s just say I prefer the movie’s approach to Bev not being afraid, to the actual… what happened in the book, and we’ll leave it at that. I cannot stomach some of the scenes of this book, not because they are terrifying, but because they are downright wrong, disgusting, and rather unnecessary.

That rant aside, this massive tome tells two stories alongside one another: the past and present battles with Pennywise the Dancing Clown mingle and cross between one another and, perhaps because I was listening to the audiobook (a whopping 45 hour track, if we’re rounding), this made it difficult for me to keep the two straight. In fact, I had to rewind now and then to make sure I was hearing things properly (i.e. aforementioned rant). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: alternating time periods in this manner between the same characters in a story is maddeningly distracting for me.

King’s character depth will always astound me. He makes even the briefest characters of his books memorable, giving them a backstory that is fully developed. There are several times he managed to goad emotions out of me that I didn’t want to feel, and I love that. Ben Hanscom is by far my favorite, perhaps because in many ways, we share similar childhoods. Parents that care, the bullies, the blossoming from pre-pubescent torture – though the entire Loser’s Club endured this, I feel Hanscom had it worst. Not counting Eddie’s run in with Henry. His heartfelt devotion for Bev is mesmerizing, and I can only hope they had their happy-ending.

Which… is heartbreaking, in its own right. While I have no doubt there are many things about the sewers of Derry that would be horrible to live with for the rest of your life, can you imagine forgetting chunks of your life, of your past? It has to be absolutely disorienting, and readers can feel it in the conclusion of Bill and Audra’s future. They’ll never know the incident that happened, nor will they remember their childhood friends whom they loved.

On a brighter note, Steven Weber, the narrator for several of King’s books, puts on a dazzling performance in It. He’s easily carried away now and then, and it’s nice to have a reader that is truly invested into the material he’s recording. Weber earns a spot right next to Amanda Dolan as one of my all-time favorite narrators and this production is amazing.

Reluctantly, I have compromised with myself to give this a mid-grade rating. I am a tough critic, and this is something that has caused disagreements between myself and other readers, but in the end, there are elements of this book I simply cannot accept, no matter whose hand wrote them.

Fun fact: My fear of clowns began when I was eight years old and witnessed Tim Curry’s Pennywise. It ended with Bill Skarsgard’s.

Rating: 💀💀💀


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