04
Sep
19

“Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not on the subconscious level where savage things grow.” CBR11 Review 37.

920686#CBR11Bingo — #bannedbooks

The first time I read this book was the summer before I went into 8th grade. A friend at camp had her mom’s copy of The Shining, which we all read, and became obsessed with. The next time I went to the library, I headed right over to the Adult “K” section, and found a paperback of Carrie, sitting along with Firestarter, ‘Salem’s Lot, The Cycle of the Werewolf, Night Shift, and a few other King titles. I read them all that summer, and never looked back.

I remember enjoying Carrie, but other than the prom and the pig blood, really didn’t remember much about it at all. Why did it take me so long to read it again?

The story of Carrie White is pieced together through book/magazine/news/interview excerpts. When the book starts, we already know a few things.

Carrie White is dead.
Carrie White had telekinetic powers.
Carrie White had not had an easy life, both at home and at school.
Carrie White killed her mother and hundreds of other people at the school and in town before she died.
Carrie White was not a monster.

We learn that Carrie was often (frequently) picked on for being different. Carrie has a crazy mother. She never wore the right clothes or said the right things or had the right (or any) friends. For as long as anyone can remember, she’s been the butt of every joke. Every desk and bathroom wall has her name on it:

“Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, but Carrie White eats shit.”

Carrie’s mother was a religious fanatic. She punished Carrie for going through puberty, locking her in a dark closet to pray for hours (days?) at a time for being impure. Of course, Mrs White never bothers to tell Carrie anything about her own body, so when Carrie gets her first period in the locker room showers, she thinks she’s dying. The girls in class think this is just about the funniest thing ever, and pelt her with pads and tampons, while chanting “plug it up!”. Only the gym teacher and one other classmate, Sue Snell, feel even a bit of remorse for how they treated Carrie that day.

The emotions she experiences from this incident –ANGER. SHAME. — wake up Carrie’s dormant telekinetic powers, and soon she can control pretty much any object at will.

Sue Snell feels so badly about how they treated Carrie in the shower (not to mention how they’ve been treating her for years) that she convinces her boyfriend to ask Carrie to the prom, unknowingly saving her own life by doing so. Tommy agrees, not only to make Sue happy, but because deep down, everyone knows that they’ve been mean to Carrie for no good reason for too long.

“But hardly anybody ever finds out that their actions really, actually, hurt other people! People don’t get better, they just get smarter. When you get smarter you don’t stop pulling the wings off flies, you just think of better reasons for doing it. Lots of kids say they feel sorry for Carrie White—mostly girls, and that’s a laugh—but I bet none of them understand what it’s like to be Carrie White, every second of every day. And they don’t really care.”

Everyone knows what happens at the prom. Pushed too far, Carrie releases all of her power at once, destroying everything and everyone in her path.

I think the most amazing thing about Carrie is that even though everyone (honestly, even if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you still know) knows what happens, every single thing that happens fills you with dread. When the book starts, we know that Carrie and hundreds of others from her small Maine town are dead.  But the devil’s in the details here – everything we find out about Carrie, her mother, and the kids at school, ratchets up the uncomfortable feeling that this is going to end way worse than we though. The whole thing is pretty impressive for a first time novelist who supposedly threw his first draft in the trash. Thanks to Tabitha King for taking out of the garbage and making Uncle Stevie take another look at it.

Carrie appears on the ALA list of 100 Most Challenged books 1990-1999.

 


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