© 1974 Stephen King
A word to the wise: if you’re going to execute a horrific public prank on the school outcast, like having her elected prom queen and then dumping a bucket of freezing pig blood on her, make sure she’s not secretly telekinetic. Otherwise, she might trap the entire senior class in a burning gynasium, then become a one-woman reenactment of the Dresden fire bombing just for good measure.
Carrie was Stephen King’s first horror novel, and it is, truly. The title character is Carrie White, a teenage girl raised by a deranged mother who regards anything connected to sex (including the existence of genitals, curves, and menses) as evil. Carrie is the soul of psychological isolation, spending much of her time in a locked closet as punishment, and so warped by her mother that she has virtually no way of relating with her peers. She’s also oblivious to the facts of the life, and when she has her period for the first time, it couldn’t come at a worse point: the school locker room, in full view of her school’s clique of Mean Girls. High schoolers being what they are, she is immediately subject to public humiliation. The Mean Girls receive a little comeuppance; they are barred from the prom and one manages to be genuinely remorseful, asking her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom in her stead. Carrie deserves one night of happiness before high school is over, she thinks — but this moment of good intentions is turned into hell.
Unfortunately for…everyone, at least those outside the funerary trades, Carrie’s one night of happiness is turned into one of horror when the barred mean girls decide to strike back. Carrie, who spends the entire book being mentally tormented either by her mother or the bullies, snaps. She has a gift, or a curse, of telekinesis; she can make things happen with her mind. (Her mother was already crazy before she was born, but having a child whose mood swings manifest themselves as a poltergeist probably didn’t help..) On the night of the prom, when she is drenched with blood and the entire school laughs at her, with the potential of happiness turned to utter degradation, Carrie decides to wreak havoc. Whatever fragile grasp she had on sanity evaporates away under the boiling outrage, and she stalks through town blowing things up. Eventually she succumbs to the physical toll her powers took on her body, as well as an injury and even further mental trauma, but not before killing four hundred people and turning a quiet Maine city into a ghost town.
Carrie is fairly gruesome; definitely not the sort of thing I’d read twice, between all the murder, mayhem, and insanity. Interestingly done, though; King breaks from his narrative to insert clips of scientific articles, news reports, legal commissions, and survivor accounts that tell more of the story.