CARRIEStephen King
Doubleday
1974

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…

The first published novel by Stephen King, Carrie was one of the King books I read while a Freshman in High School. Mind you, saying it like that makes it sound like I read the thing straight through; I assure you, tender blog peruser, that–like any other book I was reading outside of those assigned to me by my High School taskmasters–my reading habits at the time consisted of Begin Reading Book>Get Through A Couple Of Chapters>Get Bored And Distracted By Something Shiny>Forget Book Until Weeks/Months Later>Lather, Rinse, Repeat As Needed. I did manage to finish the book my Freshman year, though the start/stop times were pretty frequent. Fortunately, the relatively brief length of the novel helped in that regard.

In modern horror literature, Carrie is very much a classic of the genre. However, even now as I revisited it as a more seasoned reader, Carrie still seems a bit stilted and cardboard than dynamically scary. Off-putting, yes, and if you want to count the drama and traumatizing effects of just being the recipient of high school politics and bully-ing, then yes: Carrie is a horror novel. However, given that I picked up the book because I was told that this was about a girl that could make stuff move with her mind–which is the #2 super power a 14-year-old boy would want (#1 being invisibility, for the usual stereotypical reasons)–the whole telekinesis thing was merely the secondary horror, here. The main horror portrayed is the teenage girl dealing with a daily life that consisted of being bullied at school, and then coming home to a beyond fanatical ultra-religious mother whose grasp on reality not only packed up and left a long time ago, but has also filed a restraining order.

Looking back at it now, I can’t say that I would necessarily recommend reading Carrie first when you’re just checking out Stephen King’s vast bibliography. I can understand how some would feel weird if they don’t start at the first thing King has written and work their way up; Carrie, I’ve found, while still pretty much required reading eventually, is a bit wooden and suffers from First Novel Awkwardness. It’s still a rather good novel, and should be read eventually. It’s a good early glimpse at what was to come from the writer.

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