Review: Carrie

I’ve never read a horror book before, and with good reason. I get scared fairly easily, though I don’ t like to admit it, and the idea of scaring myself in the interests of fun is repulsive to me. Thus: no haunted houses, no Paranormal Activity movies, and certainly no Stephen King novels.

Until now. It is the nature of the Eclectic Reader Challenge to put people outside their comfort zones, and this is the first time I actually have done that to the point where I was nervous picking out the book.

Having read it, though, it was nothing like I expected. I thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, that I would be terrified some monster from the pages was going to lurk in my bedroom, but I never got really scared at all while reading this. It was much more suspenseful than outright scary.

The plot follows Carrie White, a telekinetic teenager who’s lived under the oppressive rule of her mother’s religious mania. After being bullied by her classmates her entire life, she suddenly snaps and goes on an explosive rampage of revenge.

What surprised me in this book is that King never hid what the ending was going to be. The story is told partly from a third-person-omniscient POV, and partly from clippings of newspaper articles, scientific journals, and books supposedly published after the events concerned. From these clippings we learn early on that something happens on prom night at Carrie’s school, that her town is effectively demolished, that only a few of her classmates make it out alive.

So then you’re going through the book knowing what will happen, but you’re still not sure how it all came to happen, and that’s what keeps you turning the pages. You want to know what led Carrie to snap, you want to know how it all went down, even if you already know the aftermath of it. And that, I think, is an important lesson in storytelling – the it’s-the-journey-not-the-destination aspect.

This also kept you in pretty good suspense throughout. About a hundred pages in, I started wondering when people would start dying already, and that kept me reading. Perhaps that’s the point of horror stories: not to scare yourself in the don’t-turn-out-the-lights sense, but in the I-can’t-believe-it’s-so-gruesome sense.

Besides all that, I thought it had very good buildup to the climactic bloodbath. There were a lot of moving parts to handle in this book, but I have no complaints about how any of them were handled. You knew something was coming and wanted to get there while still finding time to enjoy the relatively peaceful bits first. And the scientific stuff was fantastic. I especially found the little explanations of how Carrie’s abilities worked to be excellent diversions from the main plot.

All told, this was a fairly satisfying book seeing as how it was my first foray into the genre. I don’t know if I’ll be revisiting King anytime soon, but if I do at least I won’t be as nervous going into it. I’ll give Carrie 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Happy reading.