Stephen King’s iconic 1986 horror novel It is truly a disturbing yet captivating read. Spanning over 1000 pages, this epic novel tells the story of seven childhood friends in the small town of Derry, Maine who are terrorized by an evil entity that takes the form of their greatest fears – most often appearing as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. As adults, they return to Derry to finally defeat this ancient evil once and for all.
It’s hard not to be drawn into this complex and rich story, as King creates a vivid world filled with secrets and horrors just below the idyllic surface. While undoubtedly a scary book, with some gruesome scenes that still make me shudder years later, It is also a profound exploration of friendship and the power of facing your fears.
|Publication Date||January 5, 2016|
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A Terrifying Villain
At the rotten heart of It is the terrifying villain Pennywise. As a villain, Pennywise is incredibly unique and nightmarish. A shape-shifting entity that feeds on fear, Pennywise takes the form of a creepy clown to lure in its preferred prey – children. Pennywise is no ordinary clown though. With his silver suit and blood-red nose, he becomes the very embodiment of evil hiding behind a colorful facade.
What makes Pennywise so bone-chillingly effective as a villain is that he represents the everyday horrors children face, while also being an ancient threat. Pennywise taps into common fears like abusive parents, bullies, sickness and more. He’s a villain that feels all too real even in his supernatural form, representing the real-life monsters many children know. At the same time, he’s also an inconceivable evil that’s billions of years old. This combination makes him a complex and legitimately scary villain.
The Heart of Friendship
While Pennywise is certainly terrifying, It is also very much a story about the power of friendship. When the Losers Club first encounters Pennywise as children, they are able to defeat him because of the bond between them. Their loyalty and sacrifice for each other gives them strength. When they return as adults, they must reconnect with the friendship they shared as outcasts.
I loved the complex relationships between the members of the Losers Club. They bicker, fight and drift apart at times, but at the end of the day their childhood friendship proves to be the secret weapon against Pennywise. The idea that the love between friends can conquer even the greatest of evils is really beautiful and touching. King created characters that feel so real in their flaws and their unbreakable bonds.
The Novel’s Epic Scope
It wouldn’t be a Stephen King book without rich world-building and a sweeping scope. Even while focusing on the Losers Club, King manages to create an expansive and vivid world in the town of Derry itself. The history of the town, its secrets and evil lurking below the surface make Derry feel real and alive. Past tragedies, murders and violence all connect back to the evil of Pennywise.
The epic length of the novel also allows King to explore weighty themes like domestic abuse, bullying, trauma and grief with nuance. It shows both the beautiful and ugly sides of childhood in gritty detail. The result is a novel with incredible depth that goes beyond just scares. Though it is a big time commitment, the length was necessary to create such a fully-realized world and complex characters.
Revisiting a Horror Classic
It can certainly be considered one of King’s scariest and most disturbing books with its pervasive sense of dread and grisly fates for some characters. For me though, I appreciate it most as a profound exploration of friendship against all odds. Spending over 1000 pages with the Losers Club as they grow up and face trauma makes you feel incredibly connected to them. You want them to defeat Pennywise not just because he’s scary but because you come to truly care about these characters.
It is a faithfully character-driven horror story that takes its time exploring relationships, coming-of-age and the nostalgia of childhood. Of course, the epic showdown against Pennywise is incredibly cathartic after rooting for the Losers Club for so long. It remains one of my favorite Stephen King books because it pairs visceral horror with raw emotion flawlessly. The horror genre often gets dismissed, but King’s classic novel is proof that it can provide just as much intellectual and emotional depth as any other literary genre.