To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered, a good place to live. It was the children who saw – and felt – what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, It lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each person’s deepest dread. Sometimes It reached up, seizing, tearing, killing…
The adults, knowing better, knew nothing. Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of It was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until the grown-up children were called back, once more to confront It as It stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.
I picked up this book ready to be creeped out enough to want to sleep with the lights on. I expected violence, fear, a haunting atmosphere. And, yeah, I did get some of that. But what I really got was this slow-burn of a story that might? be an allegory? about growing up? and the power of childhood? Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m just kind of sitting here staring off into space, trying to convince myself that I’ve returned to the real world.
So. What can I say about It?
1. Stephen King just nails what it’s like to be with a tight-knit group of friends around a certain age. Even though his Losers’ Club is from the fifties, and I was born over forty years after they met, they reminded me so much of the gang of kids from my neighbourhood who spent the entire summers playing together when I was around the same age. The loyalty, the good-natured ribbing, the naiveté, the hijinks, the solid, unshakeable loyalty, everything. Even the muggy, mosquitoey Barrens felt familiar, because I’m sure it’s the same place as the woods near my house I used to play in.
2. Because of that, he also manages to capture the hollow sadness of realizing, a few years later, that your gang, your partners in crime, the people you once knew as well as you knew yourself, don’t really think about each other anymore. Yeah, you run into them at the bus stop or when they’re visiting home and reminisce about the old days, but it’s kind of empty and warped, like you’re looking in a fun house mirror and I think it just rang a little to real for me.
3. I will just say that the thing you may have heard of (the thing, I’m trying not to spoil it for you, but it is a Thing and it is a Fucking Weird Thing, if you know what I’m talking about) is just as strange and nonsensical and illogical as you have been lead to believe. I see no way in which the Thing adds to the story in any way, shape, or form and cannot understand what the thought process of the character suggesting it was supposed to be.
4. There were creepy moments. I just am not easily creeped out, so that’s probably why I reacted less to the creep factor than a lot of people.
But, honestly, you don’t need the horror and the creeps. This isn’t a book that just exists to scare you. This is a really, really good story with heart and truth and hope and sadness and I’m going to stop listing adjectives now. Yeah, it’s a thousand pages, and, honestly, I’m not going to say it’s all page-turning action. But it’s this atmosphere that wraps you up in it so slowly that you don’t realize you’re sucked in until you have to come out. I definitely understand why this book is considered a classic.