Thea: So, now you’ve read one of my Desert Island Keepers! What was your first impression of the novel?
I started reading it with not a small amount of trepidation. Not only this was my first full length Stephen King novel (not counting The Gunslinger which is so short – I loved it by the way) but hailed as one of the scariest books in the known universe.
But to my surprise, the opening chapter was scary yes, but it was so touching with the relationship between Bill and his younger brother Georgie, who dies right there and then, setting things in motion. I was expecting pure, unabashed horror and all I got was heart. Pure and simple heart. I was hooked as I felt my emotions leaping into the book and connecting with the kids’.
From there on, my amazement only progressed and grew tenfold as we get a glimpse into the adult life of the characters and once again, I was surprised that the writing was so good and in a few pages, Stephen King showed me who these people were.
THEN, the horror starts as each of them starts remembering their forgotten childhood, and there was this sense of mystery about the why or how but also this beautiful flowing back and forth between now and then until all comes into place. It is a tour the force, an ambitious project that pans out until about ¾ of the novel when it all comes crumbling down like a sand castle washed by sea waves.
Thea: Which of the “Losers Club” was your favorite and why?
Easy peasy: Ben. You know how much I love romance – so this bias of mine probably account for Ben being my favorite because out of all the kids he was the knight in shinning armour – the one that was always protecting and thinking about Bev. The way he loved her, how he felt about her, it was so sweet and tender. Plus there is the fact that he was so smart and the library was his favorite place. And my heart was swelling with tenderness as this fat, bullied, lonely kid finds solace in the friendship with the others.
I don’t get the overstated special allure of Bill – I mean he was as cool as the other kids but the story and memory I wanted to read the most was always Ben’s.
My second favorite was loud-mouthed Ritchie!
Thea: What was the scariest part of the novel for you (if any parts at all)?
The scariest part? It was not all the times “It” showed up. Oh no. Although that was pretty scary, with the clown, the ghosts, the voices * shudder *. ( I haven’t been able to sleep for over a week now)
No, the scariest part of the novel was actually all the showdowns between Bev and her father and between the kids and Henry Bowers. Because these people were so bad and so cruel and mentally unbalanced but also so very real and within the realm of possibility – the abuse and the bullying can happen anywhere, any time, in REAL life and that is such a horrendous thought- that they scared the shit out of me. I felt Henry Bowers could kill and hurt any of them more even than It. But if was even worse because Henry himself was bullied by his own father in a vicious circle that is, unfortunately, so believable.
Thea: What things did you love the most about this book? What did you hate the most?
What I loved the most – Of course, the friendship between the kids – it is the heart and soul of the novel. The moments where they are still so innocent playing together or talking, or just making fun of each other. Each scene when they were together was great – and I burst into laughter as much as they did in the book. I connected with them in such a way, I was terrified at the ugly, scary things that kept happening to all of them. I wanted to protect them, to nurse them, to play with them. I was in pins and needles worrying that any of them would die and it was terrible, terrible to feel so.
What I hated the most – The ending. More on that below.
Also I thought some of the interludes were boring and pointless – in fact, I thought the novel was unnecessarily long.
Thea: What do you think is the strongest theme of the novel? What affected you the most?
I would say that the strongest theme of the novel is the bond of friendship and the horrors of real life – more so than the loss of innocence, although that is very present as well. But without the friendship they shared nothing would have been possible.
What affected me the most -would you believe if I said it was the relationship between some of the kids and their parents? Like Eddie when he realises that his mother has been giving him placebo medicine to control him? Or how Bill’s parents shut him off after Georgie’s death? Or the worst of all, Bev and her parents? That was terrifying beyond comprehension.
They were alone dude, alone, they could not rely on anyone except themselves and so we are back to the theme of friendship. And how towards the end, Stephen managed to DESTROY every wonderful he created to that point with a turn of events that was stupid beyond belief.
SPOILERS FOLLOW HERE–Ana talks about the ending and why she was so disturbed by the novel.
Thea: So, let’s talk about the ending. You hated it–what exactly turned you off to the book?
It started somewhere around the 1000th page – up to that point, I had the clear impression that I was reading one of the best books of my life.
Then, they went into the smoke tent to have the vision and lo an behold, Ritchie and Mike have the vision of what It was – and how It had come…..from outer space or from the macro-universe or whatever as we learn later on. That was the first signal of alert. I rolled my eyes and I was sad that this was the explanation for It – (I had created this theory in mind that It was actually a creation of Derry’s rotten citizens) . But later on it gets worse – because It happens to be a primordial being that exists since the dawn of time and there is a turtle and the turtle is older than It. And we get a glimpse into Its mind and It was SCARED. Of a bunch of kids. The thing that has been terrorising Derry for such a long time and is hands down of the scariest shits I have ever read about, is scared. That killed any terror I have felt up to that point. Talk about absurd.
But that was not the worse, oh no. That first sign of alert was not enough to put be me off.
I trotted on and then GODDAMN IT Bill and Bev have sex. I started to cry, because it felt so so soooo wrong, I wanted Bev and Ben to be together, to have a real adult conversation, to learn about each other , etc. Ok, so this is my romantic self speaking so I still could have lived with it. But in the middle of the sex scene, Bev remembers something else from their first showdown with It when they were kids – that she, as a way of saving them all, decided that: SHE HAD TO HAVE SEX WITH ALL OF THEM.
It was like a jolt of pure electricity. I was like, “I did not just read this”. I read it again, then again, then again. Then I emailed you and asked if what I read was true. But it wasn’t enough, I broke my rule of not looking for spoilers and went to wikipedia and yes, it was true. I was stupefied, shocked, mystified. NO WAY.
The book died for me there and then. I didn’t even need to read the rest because everything I felt for the kids, all of a sudden, is all gone. I didn’t care anymore, I felt like quitting altogether. But I kept on, skipping huge chunks, feeling bereft once more when I read about the freaking spider and then, and then the absurd sex scene.
Thea: Despite the obvious tastelessness of adolescent sex, I felt that it served a place in the story, not only as Beverly’s way of saving her friends, but as more symbolic of their complete loss of innocence and the end of childhood. Is there a point of no return? Did this scene mean an automatic deal-breaker for you?
Absolutely, yes. I don’t even know where to start.
First there is the obvious absurdity of the scene itself. So, they are on the run, lost in the underground passages , they are losing the bond with each other (why? Why were they losing the bond with each other AFTER all they have been through?) , then Bev decided the way to brind them together is to have sex with all of them.
Can I reiterate the fact that we are talking about 11 year old children? That is absolutely inappropriate and it irked me out entirely.
Then what REALLY bugs me the most is the very idea that only sex will bind people – not love, not care, not friendship, but sex. But if you have sex with someone, it stops being simple friendship and turns into something else – friendship can still be a part of it, of course.
But the premise is ridiculous and preposterous and sexist. One girl – six boys, all around 11 years old. Come one Stephen King are you freaking kidding me? I am not one to play around with “what ifs” but can we play around with the idea here?
This principle should hold in any scenario – now you tell me if there were six girls and one boy would he have to have sex with all of them? What if two of them were brother and sister? What if there was more than one girl in the group – would the boys have to have sex with both of them? Would the two girls have sex with each other? Furthermore, by having sex with Bev they are all connected to HER, but they are not connected to each other. They should have had sex with each other as well. But no, it is the girl who makes the great sacrifice.
AND, and you can’t tell me that this is not ridiculous – she hardly feels any pain, even though she is an 11 year old virgin, who up to that point didn’t even know that the penis would go into the vagina, even though there are no preliminaries, no lubrication, and Thea, she comes. SHE COMES, TWICE. After having been beaten up, almost raped by her own father, after facing the primordial evil being, after having sex with 4, she orgasms when she has sex with the last 2 boys – I can’t believe this. I am sorry, I just don’t.
The sense of absurdity is so great I can’t even begin to describe my despair. It hurts even more because for 1000 pages I was completely fascinated with this story.
But this ending was a stupid, pathetic, irrelevant, contrived way out and all the sense of wonderment I had with this novel went up like smoke in the air.
Thea: It confronts you and takes on the form of your greatest fear–what is it?
You. Coming after me after you read the above.
Thea: How do you rate it?
Up to page 1000 I would have easily rated it a 9 missing on a 10 because of the unnecessary length of the novel and some pretty boring passages. After the breaking point – the sex between Bill and Bev – it is a 1. My completely visceral reaction to that one scene of gang bang may seem completely blown out of proportion but this is really, in all honestly, how I feel. Couple that with the fact that the the last third of the book never lives up to the high, impossible expectations created by the first AMAZING 2/3 and there you have it: a 1. Our first ever. It hurts to say so, as I did really really loved most part of it but I felt betrayed in the end, so I want the hours I spent reading this book, back.
I wonder how other people feel about this. Am I the crazy one here?
**THEA’S NOTE: SINCE it is Halloween Week and Thea has assumed control of the blog, she is totally rebutting Ana’s way-harsh comments.**
REBUTTAL: I really can’t let this go undefended (certainly not on ‘my’ week, either!) *straps on Commando vest and puts on war paint*
Ok, I get that the sex part will ick out some readers. Especially readers of the romance persuasion such as dear Ana. BUT, if you have read this far into the novel (we’re talking around pg 1000 here), you will know that Bev’s character is in large part defined by her shitty life at home. Her father beats her, abuses her almost to the point of sexual abuse–he constantly accuses Bevvy of being a bad girl, fooling around/sleeping with ‘those boys’–when nothing could be farther from the truth. How many times do we see this in her little flashbacks? I think then it kind of makes sense that this is her way of saving her friends, in addition to being that very strong–and yes saddening–way of ending her childhood. *Note: As to the whole not hurting and orgasm thing, I don’t know what to say(this is getting to be a weird conversation!)–they are all eleven years old, so theoretically they all wouldn’t be very…big. And she does hurt. Moving on!*
I’m not a fan of the sex, but I don’t see it as being a deal-breaker for the novel. It was important to the story in that it saved them and allowed them to find their way together (as to Ana’s claim that the loss of their bond after everything they had been through together is silly, I say that clearly they hadn’t fully defeated it, and the evil wasn’t over–since they had to return 30 years later!). And I disagree about the sex being meaningless–going past the grossness that these are 11 year olds (that have seen more disgusting things in their lives and have battled an ancient evil), their bond was always based on their love and friendship. It’s not as though Bev just pulled her pants down and said let’s have at it ‘cuz I’m horny! They close their pact with sex and then with a blood oath, to promise to return to fight It should It ever come back.
Regardless, even if the sex part is wrong and gross–is it enough to derail your entire reading experience with the novel? It’s a teeny tiny part of the story that can be skipped or skimmed over. And it’s not even the end of the book, as Ana’s reaction would suggest!!!!
If you keep reading past the ONE SCENE, the book ends on hope. It’s a book about sacrifice as well–not just Beverly, but more importantly with Eddie using his inhaler to stop It once again and dying in the process, with Mike in the hospital near death after stopping Henry Bowers, with Bill finally finishing the ritual of Chud for the second time.
And the final ending!!!!! With Bill riding his bike again, helping Audra, to outride and beat the devil one last time…these all are factors to me that outweigh any misgivings about that one, tiny scene.
And dude, a ONE?!?! Really!??! A ONE!??!! I’ve never even given a book that ultimate low rating. Wow.
So far as to what IT is and where it comes from, the importance of the Turtle, etc–all I can say is, if you read the Dark Tower books, this all makes a whole lot more sense. And again, in my opinion the important thing isn’t where It came from, but the fact that it is there, in the town, fed by fear and awakened by the depravity and horror that resides in people.
So there you have it. Opposite ends of the spectrum. Ana gives It the lowest grade ever given on this blog, while Thea hands out one of her extremely rare 10s. If you’ve read the book, or want to comment, we’d love to hear from you. Where do you stand?