Seeing the latest movie adaption this year, I remember the shrieks I made from the jump scares and the times I closed my eyes to avoid looking at the horrifying imagery. The movie was definitely a film of horror, but it was nothing compared to the book written by the King of Horror himself.
It was written by American author Stephen King in 1986. The story follows seven children as they are terrorized by the eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. The novel is told through narratives alternating between two time periods, and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode.
The book was adapted to an American miniseries in 1990 and another film adaption was produced in 2017. However, the both films were still unable to bring out the true horror and blood-chilling imagery King wrote in his book.
But what is it about It that makes the book so memorable and hauntingly good? It by all means, is not a simple novel.
The children of Derry, Maine, are terrorized by a supernatural entity that feeds off their fears and has the ability to seize and kill its victims. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Years later and the children grow up, but are confronted by their past once again. 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.
As long as the book was, there were definitely some parts that made me very uncomfortable. Yes, I was scared at most parts, especially with Kings vivid imagery, but according to King, himself, he was a heavy alcoholic and abused his use of drugs in the 80’s. Despite his book being a masterpiece of horror, the scenes that were filled in and not connected to the plot at all were uneasy to read.
However, while most remember It for the great scares and spine-chilling descriptions, I will always remember the characters of the Losers Club and how King wrote them.
Vulnerability and being physically weak are two factors that make children perfect victims. However, children possess one strength that most adults had lost in the painful process of maturing – the strength of imagination. A child feels and experiences emotions much more intensely than an adult, but their unique imaginative capacity allows it to cope with the seemingly improbable much more efficiently.
King has been depicting children throughout his whole career, and his child characters have subsequently grown older, along with his own children. It is, in my opinion, his best novel with child protagonists. Even if it’s one of his longest novels.
However, the length is appropriate, because of the theme: After all, it deals with childhood and the struggles of being an adult. And then we grow up, all these years pass by us faster than expected.
It is a story of a group of children who are not among the most popular, strongest or smartest; a tale about the group of seven friends living in Derry, Maine in 1958. They form the self-called “losers” club and encounter a horrible, awesome force lurking in their hometown: a force feeding on fear and devouring young children. A force that adults do not seem to see; a force that appears as a clown, holding a hand full of balloons.
If there is a thing which places King above most other writers, it certainly is his great understanding of adolescence.
The unquestionably hard time of growing up – school, bullies, parents, first crushes – they are all here, and the reader feels as if they were experiencing them. King allowed me to re-live some parts of my childhood again; I wasn’t around in 1958, but if I were I would undoubtedly be one of the boys. It is truly an impressive experience to read how King builds his characters and the world they live in.
The story addresses important social topics: racism, prejudice, domestic abuse. But most importantly, It is a story about friendship and childhood. How it irrevocably binds people together and affect their lives. It’s a study of children facing the uncanny, and overcoming their greatest fear: the fear of being alone. This is a brilliant novel, beautifully told in crisp, clear prose, with truly unforgettable characters and situations. King knows his way around the corners when it comes to horror.
I recommend this book to anyone who are interested in reading horror, thrillers, coming-of-age stories, and the psychology of adolescence.