Carrie (Stephen King)
Carrie is the story of a bullied girl with telekinetic powers. These powers grow stronger over the course of the novel, culminating in half of the town being destroyed following one final prank on her at Prom Night. There unfortunately isn't much tension, with most of the story being told in news paper clippings, book excerpts, and interviews conducted after the events of the novel. This narrative device serves to tell what will happen, before it happens, making events that would've otherwise been very surprising and tense somewhat gory, but not all that thrilling seeing as we've already been told who lives and dies. The same plot device is used to good effect to fill in non essential background details of Carrie's upbringing, family history, and telekinetic incidents prior to the climactic scene. The blood bath in the second half of the novel is a prime example of the author's aptitude at writing gruesome, destructive scenes without getting out of hand, and Carrie's home life and "awakening" make for entertaining reading. Carrie's frequent clashes with her mother move the plot along, while her urge to defy her mother and become her own person forge her into a like able protagonist. Sub plots involving the other high school students and their feelings toward Carrie seem somewhat unrealistic, and, though necessary, a better excuse for Carrie to go postal could have been found.
Carrie develops from a seemingly clueless buffoon to a strong female lead over the course of the novel, and her transformation is easily my favorite aspect of the book. When we first see her, she is painted in a highly unsympathetic light, from her physical appearance to her mannerisms and beliefs, she just seems like a brainwashed idiot. As she develops her powers, and after her invitation to the prom, she becomes a much more powerful character. She develops a desire to break free of her mother's chains, and a will to do so. Couple these with her social blossoming at the Prom, and she becomes one of the more like able female protagonists I've seen. Minor characters, such a strong trait in King's other books, don't really develop here. Tommy and Sue, the couple sympathetic to Carrie's plight, come across as being extremely one dimensional in their support of her. Chris and Billy, the couple dedicated to breaking her once and for all, come across as the exact opposite. On the other hand, Carrie's mother is a very entertaining (if shallow) character, her insane hypocrisy and religious fervor are both frightening and hilarious. Apart from this one standout, Carrie's supporting cast is nothing more than a few simplistic characters created for the sole purpose of influencing the story.
The prose in this novel isn't quite up to par with King's later books, but it certainly has its moments. Scenes written in Carrie's point of view, most notably in the middle section of the novel, have a tendency to feel rambling and desperate, both in word choice and length. By contrast, the prom scenes with Carrie as the focal point are more serene, she has broken free of her mother and the writing style in these sequences reflect the relief and wary hope that come with this. There is an effort to establish a voice with some of the other characters too, but it mostly falls flat because they aren't overly interesting characters to begin with. There also aren't nearly as many pop culture references as there would be in future works, the author usually does a good job of integrating these references to further craft a world that resembles our own, but in this case it works without the references. Carrie has lived a completely sheltered life, and it makes sense that she may not think of things in the same way that a character more integrated into society would.
Carrie isn't a perfect book, and in fact it may be one of Stephen King's weaker novels overall, but the action packed gore fest of a conclusion, along with Carrie's well written transformation, make this an entertaining read.