Carrie knew she should not use the terrifying power she possessed… But one night at her senior prom, Carrie was scorned and humiliated just one time too many, and in a fit of uncontrollable fury she turned her clandestine game into a weapon of horror and destruction…
This was one of those stories where I knew what happened, the plot absorbed via osmosis throughout my life somehow, but I’d never read it before. I hadn’t even seen a movie of it, though I do remember all the trailers for the 2013 version with Chloë Grace Moretz and thinking at the time that I should read the book.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
And it might have taken a while, but I got around to it eventually (you know, eight years later), and I’m so grateful that I did. The writing is solid, though after reading some of his later work, I can see his evolution as an author. But what sold it for me–and what usually does in Stephen King novels–are the characters.
They are incredibly in-depth, complex, real people. Take Sue Snell, for example. She sets Carrie up to go to the Senior Prom with Tommy, her boyfriend. And it isn’t just one thing that motivates her to do this: it’s a whole bunch of little thoughts and actions snowballing until this becomes her course. She’s worried about becoming nothing more than the same-old wife, living in the same-old town, just another of the thousands destined to be Prom Queen, marry their high school sweat-heart, and fall into the rut so many others have carved out before her. She’s also simultaneously pitying and disgusted by Carrie, with the titular character drawing out these emotions and thoughts Sue doesn’t particularly like seeing in herself. In a way, she uses Carrie like everyone else uses her. Maybe not as the butt of practical and cruel jokes (though she doesn’t stop them either), but she uses Carrie as a medium and a tool to convince herself that she’s a good person (regardless of whether or not she actually is).
Nearly all the main characters display this level of sophistication, which is what makes King’s writing so powerful. It reaches people, and they can see facets of themselves in the characters on the page.
That said, I do enjoy the themes inherent in the story. Alienation, obviously, being chief among them. Carrie is ostracized because she does not conform into the mold: she’s unusual, strange, and therefore, she’s bullied. Sue Snell, likewise, comes to feel that same distance after Carrie’s rampage: we can see it during the White Commission’s interaction with Sue during their investigation. Like Carrie was the butt of all the kids jokes, Sue becomes a scapegoat for the reasons behind Carrie’s rampage (in the eyes of the Commission, at least). Just like Carrie dreamed of leaving everything behind, Sue admits that she wrote the book to paint a human version of Carrie and to raise funds to go somewhere else, somewhere people don’t know her.
This solid, masterful style of writing is what solidified King’s place as a master storyteller. His characters, themes, and precise word choice make him one of the best authors of our age. Carrie, his first novel, shows that. If you’re in the mood for something creepy, unsettling, and well, horrific, you can’t go wrong with Stephen King. Carrie, especially. 5 out of 5 stars!