Baxlala’s #CBR4 Review #5: IT by Stephen King
DISCLAIMER: Hey, so, real quick…if you’re at all scared of clowns, maybe don’t read this book.
IT was the first Stephen King book I ever read, back when I was 12 or 13, which is a completely inappropriate time to be reading Stephen King but get over it because it happened. I can’t do anything about it unless The Doctor shows up on my doorstep (pleasepleaseplease) and even then, I’m not sure I’d change anything. What’s done is done. My brain is forever warped thanks to books like this, and I believe this book in particular is responsible for me writing my own horror stories as a child, stories like The Evil Summer (for which I designed a very disturbing cover). I cannot believe my parents never sent me to therapy.
My dad, actually, is the one who handed IT to me one day because he thought I’d like Stephen King. It did seem the natural progression, since I’d spent the last few years devouring every RL Stine and Christopher Pike book I could get my hands on. And really, what was the big deal that I read IT at age 12, aside from the language and the sex and the…oh wait, got it. I had a tradition, at that point, of reading things that were outside my maturity level, like when I read Are You There, God, It’s Me Margaret at age eight, then asked my mom why all the girls in the book spent so much time talking about punctuation. ANYWAY.
IT is the story of seven children and the unlikely friendship that blooms one terrible summer in Derry, Maine (of course). Bill, also known as Stuttering Bill or Big Bill, is the leader of a misfit group known as The Losers, who spend the summer playing and plotting in a desolate, lonely place called The Barrens. The seven children become friends because each has had a majorly weird experience with the Big Bad that lurks below Derry. This Evil goes by many faces and names, but mostly takes the shape of a clown and soon becomes known as Pennywise aka He Who Shall Haunt Your Nightmares. Pennywise lives in the sewers because maybe New England has its very own Hellmouth? Somebody tell Giles.
Bill, their leader, wants to kill the clown because IT kills children, Bill’s brother included. The kids join forces to battle not only this Big Bad, but a group of bullies led by a psychotic boy named Henry Bowers. IT uses Henry to do all number of bad things to The Losers, but this kid was bad before IT took hold, so let’s not feel too terribly about what happens to him, OK? OK.
Because this is Stephen King, lots and lots of messed up things happen to the kids. Then they grow up and come back to Derry for reasons I will not go into because of SPOILERS and, once again, lots of messed up things happen to them. It’s this whole big thing. King weaves in stories about the Derry’s history, as told by older Derry residents, and, as per usual, creates a multitude of characters, most of whom you’d rather not spend too much time with. But don’t worry, because something really bad will probably happen to all of the people you hate, and even the people you like. So, you know, if you like reading about terrible things happening to people and don’t mind having the shit scared out of you and not being able to sleep because you think that maybe there’s an evil clown living under your bed, this book is for you.
(This is the point where I’d like to talk about the ending, which, being Stephen King, is completely fucked up, but I don’t want to give anything away. BUT YOU GUYS THE ENDING. I was surprised at how much I remembered from when I read it 17 years ago. And yet, as I was reading it, I was sure I was misremembering it, because surely no one would write anything like that. ABOUT CHILDREN. But yes. He did. Stephen King, I thought my brain was a scary place, but you, sir, you win. And yes, I just put an entire paragraph in parenthesis DEAL WITH IT.)
PS: There was also a TV miniseries that, while not great, is worth checking out, if only to see a very young Seth Green, Jonathan Brandis (RIP), John Ritter, the judge from Night Court, John-Boy, and the dad from Sister, Sister, all fighting Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who is dressed up like the most molesty clown at the circus.