It, by Stephen King; 1987
Beep, Beep Richie! IT has definitively proven to me that you have to pick up the right book at just the right time. I started this in October 2014 thinking that it would make a good Halloween read. I dragged myself through 250 pages; it wasn’t as scary as I had hoped it would be, and it was mostly just about eleven-year-olds hanging out in the woods. Every sixth months or so I would pick it up and read a little more, but I couldn’t get into it. Finally, about two weeks ago I decided to finish what I started, picking up at the 400 page mark and I was immediately hooked.
In a nutshell: It/Pennywise is an entity of evil, its origins unknown; it emerges every three decades to prey on children in Derry, Maine, and marks period of an uptake in violence in the town. It shapeshifts to assume the form that induces the most fear in its victim, and often takes the form of Pennywise the clown to lure children, which it prefers. It can also control people and use them to do its bidding. In October 1958, the period of violence begins with the murder of Georgie Denbrough. The following summer, seven friends meet, driven together by resident bully Henry Bowers and his cronies. They crown themselves the Losers; led by Bill Denbrough, Georgie’s older brother, they decide to try to defeat It and end the child murders. 27 years later, they are called back to Derry as adults to finish what they started, the summer of 1958 now less than a memory.
IT is about much more than just a killer clown, although yes, there is a terrifying killer clown. First and foremost, IT is about friendship, the magic of being a kid, and overcoming the darkness in life. The novel also focuses on King’s usual theme: the ugliness lurking beneath a small town, the evil decaying the town from the inside, out.
As with any Stephen King book, there are some pacing issues. I assure you that if you’re dedicated to reading IT then pushing through the slower sections is completely worth it. After the 400 page mark there’s a dramatic shift. It as a whole and It itself become a whole lot scarier. I admit that there were a few nights where reading this before bed impacted my sleep.
When I muscled through other long books this year – City on Fire, I’m looking at you – when I finished I was just like, thank goodness. But the payoff of reading IT was enormous. I’ve never doubted King’s storytelling prowess, but IT really substantiated his gifts. Not only was this his scariest that I’ve read, but it was the most well-written, too. I felt so accomplished when I finally finished this, and sad, too! I hadn’t even realized how attached I’d gotten to the Losers. The more days that have passed since I’ve finished this, the more it’s growing on me and the more I like it. For someone who hasn’t read IT, this will sound strange, but for those who have it will make sense: IT is endearing. IT will stick with me for a long time. And it’s certainly a book I would want to revisit later in life.
Drive away and try to keep smiling. Get a little rock and roll on the radio and go toward all the life there is with all of the courage you can find and all the belief you can muster. Be true, be brave, stand. All the rest is darkness.
Will never look at the word “float” in the same way again! Or balloons. Or storm drains. Or bathroom sinks.