‘Carrie’ by Stephen King: A Review

Author: Stephen King
Genre: Fiction, Horror, Thriller
First Published: 1974
Pages: 245


Carrie wasn’t like everyone else. The quiet, religious girl was the butt of every joke. But when she is humiliated just one time too many, the small community is obliterated by her secret power.

In a small New England town, high school students are getting ready for their prom. Talk centres around dates and dresses as the countdown to the prom is on. However, an incident in the showers after a sports lesson sets catastrophic wheels in motion. Carrie White is an outsider. She has no friends and has been picked on by almost every student since she started school. She suffers quietly but the anger inside her builds up. Carrie’s bizarre religious upbringing results in constant punishment from her mother and a sheltered life. Carrie has a power though. When Carrie is humiliated in front of the whole school at the prom she knows exactly how to take her revenge. Before long Carrie is leading a trail of destruction through the town, with the soul intention of obliterating anyone who ever hurt her; she becomes an unstoppable force.

When my dad gave me this book to read he promised me a scary/thrilling book and sadly I was disappointed. I am a great lover of Stephen King’s short stories, but this was the first of his novels that I have read. I was initially disappointed with the lack of ‘scariness’ that my dad had promised me. I found the book pretty tedious for the first hundred pages and once the action really started, it still had little impact on me. I think the main reason for this is the structure of the plot. It is constructed in retrospect from ‘articles,’ ‘books,’ or ‘witness statements’ about ‘the event,’ which I still feel is a particularly creative way of presenting the plot, but it jarred with me because I found that the constantly switching view points and sources meant that it was impossible to build tension effectively, resulting in a low impact upon the reader.

The other point I disliked about the book was the clichéd stereotypes that are presented within King’s microcosm. The characters are your stereotypical ‘popular’ students whose bitchiness is directed at the religious outcast. The ‘in’ crowed consider the prom to be the most important night of their lives and they have very little thought of what they will do in the ‘real’ world. Because the characters slotted neatly into the classic American stereotypes, I found they pretty two-dimensional. There was no way you could relate to the characters and therefore it was impossible to sympathise with them. I feel that this lack of sympathy also reduces the impact of ‘the event’ as you cannot feel for the characters; therefore what happens to them seems irrelevant.

Do I just come a generation too late to fully appreciate this book?

The one point in the book that I did find moving however, was the aftermath of the destruction. The plot suddenly became very touching once the action was over and the accounts came from those who were left behind to pick up the pieces. They rang haunting reminders of events such as 9/11 and the Columbine disaster, and I feel that this is where the book really shines as it is captures in a beautiful yet sympathetic way.

Ultimately, ‘Carrie’ wasn’t a book for me. I think the high expectations that I had lead me to view it so critically, but I was incredibly disappointed. I won’t, however, let this put me off reading other Stephen King novel, and hopefully the next one I read will appeal to me much more.

Favourite quote: ‘Her mind and nervous system had become a library. Someone in desperate need ran through her, fingers trailing lightly over shelves of books, lifting some out, scanning them, putting them back, letting some fall, leaving the pages to flutter wildly.’ (pp. 230-1)

Rating: 4/10

I’d love to hear the views of others who have read this one!


4 thoughts on “‘Carrie’ by Stephen King: A Review

  1. Jay says:

    Hi Hannah,
    I’ve read a lot of King’s books and stories but not this one. A book I’m certain you’d find interesting, though, is his non-fiction book, “On Writing.” As a future novelist you may already be familiar with it, but if not, you should check it out. It’s roughly half autobiographical (how I became a writer, etc.) and half advice on “how to do it.”
    Carrie was his first success, commercially anyway, and he conveys the thrill of finally “making it” as a writer very well I think.

    • Hannah Ackroyd says:

      Hi Jay, ‘On Writing’ is currently sitting patiently on my shelves waiting for its turn to be read! Thank you for reminding me of it! I do want to try other Stephen King novels, I just don’t think Carrie was fr me but hopefully I will come across some others that I enjoy! I love his short stories, particularly 1408…that is amazing!

  2. Kristel says:

    The first time I read this book, I was in high school (in a Catholic all-girls school). So I know the face of radical faith and I know how vicious girls can be. Though definitely not King’s best offering, I did like the book enough. (Mostly for its relatability.)

    Plus, all my friends agree, Sue Snell’s “It seemed like an awful lot of rubbing for a little warmth.” line is genius.

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