For those who don’t know the story of Carrie – and, really, who doesn’t? – it is, essentially, about the cruelty of kids. Carrie is a teenage girl with an over-zealous, religious mother. She doesn’t fit in with any of the other teenagers at her high school, and wants more than anything else to belong. She knows she’s different, and not just because of her mother and her upbringing. Carrie has a power inside her that over the course of the book, she learns to control.
The story starts with Carrie and her classmates finishing gym, washing up in the showers. When Carrie emerges, her classmates realise she is bleeding. Carrie begins to freak out, as the girls pelt her with tampons and sanitary towels. They know she has her period, she seems to have no idea of even the concept.
The opening itself, the scene in the changing room, is key to the whole story. In just a few pages King shows us what we need to know about the characters involved. We’re introduced to Carrie, and shown that her mother has kept her so locked up from the world that she doesn’t even know what a period is. (And for female readers…well, we all remember that conversation with our mothers, don’t we?) We see Chris as the ringleader of this sort of thing, the popular pretty girl who thinks she can do whatever she likes and get away with it. And Sue, the girl wrapped in guilt about the whole thing, the girl who tries to make it better and ends up causing the main, horrific events of the book.
I love King, I really do, and in the last few months I’ve got through a fair number of his books. Carrie is not my favourite, but it does show why I think he’s such a good writer. For starters, he’s actually pretty good at writing teenage girls. Not perfect, but having not ever been a teenage girl himself I think can be forgiven. Secondly, his characters are all real – we get inside a fair few of their heads, see their motivations, see the way they see themselves and that adds a whole lot of weight to them.
The story runs alongside ‘extracts’ from various books and reports after the incident at the prom. We learn early on of some of the events that happen, but not everything is given away easily. These extracts offer something extra to the reader, allowing us to glimpse the full impact of Carrie in the years after the main events of the novel. We hear from Sue, in her own autobiography, and see even more inside her head alongside the parts of the novel dedicated to her. It works nicely, woven together, and it’s an interesting technique that I, for one, haven’t seen before.
So if you haven’t read it yet, and you’re a fan of King or horror, then grab a copy and read! You won’t be disappointed.