IT by Stephen King

It seems that there is a wide appreciation for this book, and people have hailed it as "the scariest King book ever".

So, to satisfy my market research curiosity, I finally read it. 

Let me say I do not like to read horror, because fear for entertainment is confusing to me. My "fight or flight" kicks in, and I do not get the thrill of jump-scares and the grotesque in the paranormal. So, I am either the perfect person to discuss IT, or the most bizarre.

Influenced by the 80' television miniseries with Tim  Curry as Pennywise the clown, I knew it was a story about kids who were traumatized by a killer clown and he terrifies them into their adult lives. As we all know, the movie version of a novel is based on what the studio wants to promote, and it's only one adaptation of what lies between the pages of the book. 

What I discovered is that IT is not about a killing clown and childhood fears coming to life in unbelievably terrifying ways. To me, it was a surprising story about 7 friends, the intimate depths of their relationships and the ways we are all vulnerable to the heartache of youth. The book was a tome, 1138 pages and daunting if it was only about a killing clown that still sounds like Tim Curry in my head. But, what kept bringing people back to it? What was the appeal?

Stephen King is a master of storytelling. No one is going to argue with that. He always weaves dark, complicated characters in amongst simple, relatable characters tangling with one another against the backdrop of familiar human struggles. I thought that IT was going to be a long, drawn-out horror flick on paper, which did not appeal to me. At. All. King included all the elements of fear and tragedy, but tempered it with the reminder that greater than the things we fear are the way we love others. The 7 friends experienced moments of tragedy and heroism, then separated to make their mark in the world as adults, only to be drawn back into the fear of their childhood one more.

Yes, there are evil characters, because if it was just a mythically terrifying clown, there is only so much that can be said about that. People are the real villains, the darkness and cruelty that dwells within another human is familiar - many of King's novels have that one abusive partner, the cruel parent or the bully that seems to reappear in his storylines predictably. He uses more graphic language than I am usually comfortable with, and I get that he is making a point but I felt that parts of the book were unnecessarily wordy - we get that he's a bad guy, get on with the story! King can often take too long to get to the point and I catch myself assessing whether or not that book was better or worse because of the verbose language and rabbit-trail storylines... but I digress.

This book made me feel a lot of things, but by the end of the book, I was surprisingly emotional. It was the friendships, the openness that they shared and the risks they took to be vulnerable with one another that I latched onto. Had they gone through some dark stuff? Yes. Had they encountered things that would likely have most people in therapy for the rest of their days? Yup. But like all his stories, King's story was about the endurance of friendships, the strength we have together when we feel weak and inferior alone, and the reminder that love conquers evil in every fairy tale for a reason.

To me, there is nothing scary about that.



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