Let the making fun of me begin: I am newly and totally obsessed with Stephen King.
Brief backstory: when I was 7 or 8 years old, I started reading “Cujo.” It gave me nightmares: long, scary, repeated nightmares. I never finished it, because No More Stephen King For Me, said my parents. And then, somehow, in my mind, the idea of Stephen King’s writing… well, I guess it morphed from “OMG, that guy is scary” to “Meh, airport reading. Basically the James Patterson of horror.”
Silly me. Poor me, missing out on so much great reading for so damn long.
“It.” Is. Incredible.
First of all, I’m a grown woman now, with real things to be afraid of. And yet “It” successfully gave me nightmares. Scary, repeated nightmares, from which I woke too scared to reach out to my sweet and very comforting dog, because he was on the floor of my bedroom, and if I put my hand down, Pennywise might be lying on the floor waiting to grab my it.
But more importantly, the man can write. If you’re the only person besides me who hasn’t read “It,” a quick run-down: a group of adults in 1985 receive a phone call from their past, awaking memories long-repressed of their childhoods (like, their entire chidhoods, including each other) and a promise made to the group to return to their hometown of Derry, Maine to kill the evil thing that lives there and awakens four times each century to feed on fear, rage, and hatred. Half told in the present of 1985, and half told in 1958 when they were 11 (give or take) years old and first fight It, it’s a coming-of-age story, a homecoming story, and a supernatural horror story.
And yet also, somehow, an incredibly thoughtful social commentary that I never would have expected from, frankly, a rich, famous, white dude in the 80’s. One of the gang of kids is a girl whose father beats her (and probably lusts after her); when she grows up, she marries a controlling, and emotionally and physically abusive sociopath. Another is a black boy who endures racist bullying that’s unfortunately all too realistic. Another is a boy whose mother subjects him to some seriously thorough Munchausen-by-proxy. One of the could-have-been-nameless victims of It is a killed in a graphic and upsettingly believable gay bashing scene. My point is, the emotional layers are complex, and deeply perceptive and resonant.
If I had one point of critique, it would be that the (interesting and layered) boxes that the characters are written into are regularly defined, long after it’s been established that, for example, Ben was a fat kid who loved Beverly desperately and ate his feelings, and has an incredible, instinctive skill for building things; he grows up to be a rich and famous architect, never marries, but does lose all the weight. Those details (and the details about each of the other kids) are repeated and repeated, almost ad nauseum.
But if I’m being honest, it didn’t actually bother me that much. That’s how much I fucking adored this book.