Book Review: IT by Stephen King (Can I Join the Losers Club Please)

I got hooked on this one. Closing the last page left me dealing with a gut-twisting sense of sadness. Get comfy, ’cause this is going to be a long post.

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ITI’ve always described Stephen King’s The Stand as epic. The length of the narrative (I think my copy runs to 1400 pages), the number of characters, the themes it explores – there is no other word that quite sums it up. Why it took me so long to get around to reading IT, another very long book by King told from multiple points of view, I don’t know, but now that I’ve finished, I’m once again happy to use the word “epic”.

Let’s get the negative out of the way first. I felt IT was long-winded at times. There was too much backstory on characters that weren’t central to the plot. Too much info about incidents from Derry’s past. A good 200-300 pages could probably have been removed and wouldn’t have affected the story. I did have to push myself through the first hundred pages or so, but once I got into IT, I was hooked.

*

I caught the TV mini-series when I was maybe eight or nine years old. Adult supervision in my house must have been lax because I remember being frozen on the couch, unable to move or call to my parents for help. I probably spent an hour and a half watching one part of the TV show on Sky 1, and neither my mom nor dad came to check up on me. The image of the evil clown’s bloodshot eyes and yellowed teeth paralysed me and still gives me chills to this day.

it

My father picked up the book at a car boot sale for me months ago. I’d asked him to keep an eye out for The Stand since my own copy had fallen apart. He saw the hardback of IT and couldn’t resist a bargain.

I know TV shows and movies can’t capture every element of a book, but the series ignored a lot. From the TV series, I didn’t fully understand how different the town of Derry is to every other town and city in the US. One of the characters in the book compares it to a town in Texas where given the population, the crime rate is unusually low. Studies of the water in that town found it contained a natural tranquilizer, making the people more placid. Derry is the opposite. Given the fact that It lives in the sewers and uses the canals and drains to get around, the crime rate is higher in Derry, because there definitely is something in the water, It.

I wondered, given all the children who go missing and turn up dead, why national news broadcasters never come to Derry, but again that’s explained. People in Derry have a way of forgetting or just accepting the bad stuff that goes on, and when they leave Derry, they don’t remember much about it. IT’s way of keeping Derry isolated.

*

Things take a turn for the bizarre when the kids come face to face with It’s real likeness, or as close as a human mind can process It’s true form. My head actually hurt at one point as Big Bill went zooming off into the universe and chatted with the Turtle. Was Stephen King on happy pills when he wrote that part? I found myself wondering. And if he was, I’d love to know what kind…

*

What horrified me the most was the implication that if you got lost in the deadlights and your body died, you would spend eternity with It. That appalled me. I was thinking of poor Georgie and all those kids who died. Are they spending eternity with a monster?

*

SPOILERS AHEAD – I want to talk about how I felt when I finished reading, and for that I unfortunately have to include SPOILERS. So if you have any intention of reading IT, ignore this paragraph. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS….
The final pages left a deep sadness in me. I have to say well done to Mr. King for making me care for these characters, both as children and as adults. What made me an emotional wreck was the tragedy that Mike and Bill and Beverly and the rest won’t remember each other, their friendship, how they saved lives and battled an evil entity. It broke my heart reading how Mike couldn’t remember if Eddie was an asthmatic or chronic migraine sufferer. Richie picks up the phone and doesn’t remember who Mike is at first. And the awfulness grows even worse when Mike finds the ink in his journal fading. In time he won’t be able to read about IT and his friends from Derry.

The gang will go about their lives, perhaps happier now that the evil is wiped from their minds, but they will live without each other and the knowledge of each other. I found this to be a terrible, awful, punch-me-in-the-gut and twist my heart tragedy.
I’d heartily recommend IT to horror fans. But even if you’re not a fan of horror, read it for the story of friendship. Nobody writes childhood friends like King. He captures the innocence of youth masterfully. The kids in IT made me think of the children in The Body and the movie adaptation of that novella, Stand By Me. I wanted to be a member of the Losers Club.

IT spooked me, drew me in, made me care about the gang of 7 as kids and as adults and left me emotionally spent. ****

Check it out on Goodreads & Amazon

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Who’s Read this One? What did you think?

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About Emma

Buffy fan, avid reader, writer.
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24 Responses to Book Review: IT by Stephen King (Can I Join the Losers Club Please)

  1. Jen Naumann says:

    I LOL’d when you talked about being frozen on the couch. I can definitely relate with my childhood memories. I remember watching Aliens when we first got cable and being terrified!

    I haven’t read IT since high school and should probably give it another go. As a huge fan of Stephen’s, I agree he gets pretty long winded sometimes. I tried re-reading The Shining recently and had to skim through it (but I adored the heck out of Doctor Sleep!).

    • Emma says:

      Ha ha, Jen. I think we’ve all had those Couch Freeze moments. My own dad always talks about Salem Lot – think my mother found him on the couch the next morning. He hadn’t been able to get up once the film finished. πŸ™‚
      Aliens is a class film!
      I’ve never read The Shining, but I’m in the mood for another King tale so might give it a go.

  2. This is my favorite Stephen King book. I’ve read it MANY times. I agree about the sadness at the end. Because we DO care about those characters. I’ve said numerous times no one does character building like Stephen King. This book is just amazing. And I didn’t mind the backstories as much as you did. There was one thing I DIDN’T like about the book and was SO glad the movie left it out. It was something the eleven-year-old kids did that no eleven-year-olds should be doing. That’s all I’m saying since I don’t want to do a spoiler.

    Incidentally, I just finished the uncut version of The Stand on audio book. It was 46 hours long. I was so involved in that story, I was almost depressed when it was over. I didn’t want it to be over. So then I had to watch the movie (mini-series).

    • Emma says:

      I totally agree with you. No one does character building like him. Especially with The Stand, I felt like I was part of the group with Nick, Stu, Frannie, Larry and everyone else. 46 hours – wowza. The mini series isn’t too bad. I know it looks dated now but at the time, back in 1994 or something, I thought it was well done. Gary Sinise captured Stu Redman very well.

      Yeah, I know that part of IT you’re talking to. When adult Beverly first mentions it, I paused and thought – nah, that couldn’t be right. Somehow I’d say the producers of the show would have had a hard time selling the mini-series if they’d kept that in!

  3. Mae Clair says:

    I read this decades ago and had to plow through a lot of it. I agree that much could have been cut, but the heart of the story is what makes it one of my all-time favorite King novels. You are so right that no one captures the magic of childhood friendships like Mr. King. That’s what really hooked me about it. Creepy and spooky too with some very cool town history. I still enjoy watching the movie adaption of this. I know I had it on VHS, and I’m pretty sure I have it on DVD. After reading your post it makes me want to see it again (I don’t think I’m up for tackling the book).

    • Emma says:

      The gang’s friendship was the heart of the story and for that, I’ll happily read IT again in the future; I’ll just skim the bits I found a little yawnsome. πŸ™‚ The town of Derry felt like a character itself. King loves his New England and Maine settings, and you’re right about the cool town history, Mae.
      If you go back and watch the mini series, just be warned; it’s very dated. I went back and watched it after finishing the book. The kids play their parts really well, but some of the adult actors are woeful.

  4. Jess Witkins says:

    Uh yah, this is why I don’t like clowns. I haven’t read this one, but I’ve seen the miniseries and it’s seriously creepy. I was even scared of public showers for awhile after watching it. I was convinced he’d crawl through the drain.

    I need to read more Stephen King. I’ve seen so many of his movies, but the only book I’ve read is Misery – which was awesome (as is the movie) but even more intense!

    • Emma says:

      Hey, Jess. Clowns were ruined for all of us after watching IT! Yeah, that shower scene was terrifying or when the sink in the girl’s bathroom starts coughing up blood and her dad can’t see it. *shivers*.
      I’m not sure if I’ve read Misery, maybe I did as a teen, but it’s the film I’m remembering now.

  5. I remember enjoying IT, but much like you I found it long winded at times. I completely skipped the part LL was talking about, that was way to much information. I thought the mini-series was okay, but I had read the book first, and the mini-series just couldn’t capture the monster at the end the way my imagination could.
    Hmmmm…. favourite Stephen King book would be The Shining. Although, Salem’s Lot or Needful Things are close seconds.
    Ciao

    • Emma says:

      I enjoyed the mini-series when it came out, but re-watching it, I can see how dated it is now. The actors playing the kids did a great job, but not so much the adults. The spider in the TV show – awful. Laughable really.
      I read Needful Things a long time ago, but can’t remember much about it. Time for a re-read maybe.

  6. fuonlyknew says:

    Most excellent review Elisabeth. My son watched the movie when he was younger. I know, I’m a bad mommy. It scared him so bad he became afraid of storm drains and clowns. He wouldn’t go near a clown while trick or treating. They are creepy with their yellow teeth and face paint. I don’t know why anyone thought they were good entertainers for kids!

    • Emma says:

      Thanks, Laura. πŸ™‚
      I think every kid became afraid of drains and clowns after it. I totally understand why Xander in Buffy hated clowns.

  7. Shah Wharton says:

    Oh I love this review. I loved horror as a child; my dad was bad and made me ditch school to watch zombie movies now and again. Zombies were the only characters that frightened me though. Vampires, Werewolves, Aliens, never did, although I loved them. But devil clowns in the drainage system were another story. πŸ™‚

    I think readers demand bevity these days than they once did. Many older books are longer-winder and detailed than they are now. I’m reading a book for review which begins with a few chapters of narrative/backstory and although the story told is intriguing, it feels almost suffocating. I had to battle through it and have had to put it to one side, weary of the drone. I probably won’t review it. I think all of this could have been cut in half and threaded through AFTER the inciting incident which is yet to happen as far as I can tell.

    Still, sometimes it’s worth the battle to get to the good stuff as it seems to have been here. I had a similar experience with Dracula. Loved that book once I got over the huge difference in writing style.

    • Emma says:

      I loved horror as a kid too. Your dad sounds brilliant, Shah. Vampires and werewolves thrilled me more than scared me. I watched The X-Files for the first time when I was ten years old and that cemented my fixation on aliens.

      You think readers these days don’t have the patience to sit through long books? Depends on the book and the writer I think. Some stories need to be told over the span of a thousand pages, others can be complete in a couple of hundred. Did you take on that book for review that’s making you weary? I hardly ever take on books for review anymore. Reading time is precious and I don’t want to read something I’m not passionate about and didn’t choose for myself. If that book has made you weary, best to leave it down and find something you enjoy reading.

      I haven’t read Dracula since I was in college, but remember it being difficult to get through alright. And I kept comparing it to the Winona Ryder and Gary Oldman film. πŸ˜‰

  8. I have tried to leave a comment for three days now and nothing happens. I see you had the same problem with me. Grrr. Wish I knew what was going on.

    Anyway, Stephen King was always a favourite of mine, but I haven’t read anything by him for a long time. There was one book where I thought he went so far over the top and lost the plot that I set it aside. I can’t remember which as this was years ago. I moved on from him to Dean Koontz. I must pick up SK sometime and see if I’ll like reading his work again. Glad you enjoyed this one, Emma. I remember reading Carrie, IT, Christine, Cujo, Pet Sematary, Misery, Firestarter, Tommyknockers and others. Too many to remember, and he’s written plenty! πŸ™‚

    Holding thumbs this goes through!

    • Emma says:

      You are so good for putting all the effort into commenting. I don’t know why that is happening. It’s happened a few times on your blog too. I hit the publish button and my usually long-winded comment disappears – poof.

      You’ve read loads of King’s books. Did you manage to get through The Stand? That’s a whopper of a book, the uncut version anyway. What’s Tommyknockers like? I have the film on VHS in the attic. I can still hear the creepy rhyme from when I was a kid in my head. “Late last night and the night before, Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers knocking on the door..”

      • LOL. Honestly, I swear more than I really should when this happens! As I type this, I’m praying that when I hit post comment it works! Fingers crossed. I can’t remember if I read The Stand. The ones I mentioned I remember the most but then I read them yonks ago. Probably the ones I enjoyed more simply because I remembered them, hehehe. I think I read The Shining, too. Emma, I’m soooooooooo much older than you are and when I say yonks, I really mean it!!! :p

        I really enjoyed Tommyknockers even though aliens were like sort of strange for me way back then. I read the strangest books when I was younger. Hahaha.

        Love it, Emma… goosies! And it follows with, “I wanna go out, don’t know if I can ‘cuz I’m so afraid of the tommyknocker man.” You should, when you have the time, give this one a whirl. πŸ˜€

      • Emma says:

        Yonks – no way!
        Strange reading material is the best.

  9. Pingback: Horror/SF/Fantasy/YA/NA/MG Reader Links… | TraciKenworth's Blog

  10. sherry fundin says:

    If I haven’t read all of his books, I must be very close. Don’t even need to know what they are about, just pick them up when I see a new one. I loved IT and reading another Derry story would always be high on my list.

  11. reclusivefox says:

    This is one of my favourite books of all time. What you disliked about the history of Derry, I adored. I think this book is incredible. The history is so real and so detailed, the friendships are genuine and the characters are believable (even if ‘It’ isn’t). Fantastic piece of work.

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