It’s funny how when you read a book for the second time you catch so much that you didn’t the first time through. I first read IT by Stephen King when I was 18. I was horrified, creeped out, disgusted, and obviously, in love with the story. My plan was to read this before the new movie released but if you’re not aware IT is not just a book, it’s a TOME, and I just didn’t have the time. You better be prepared to dedicate some time if you want to read this book. I’m a pretty quick reader and this has taken me a solid week of pretty dedicated reading. Anyways, after reading this story for a second time I belive I love it even more and I’m way more impressed with the new movie. If you somehow have no idea what this story is about I’ll give a synopsis and then my thoughts. There will be spoilers.
*Typically I write my own synopsis but since this book is a monolithic size beast I’m going to just copy what is on the back of the book and I will also copy a detailed summary from the IT Wikipedia page. My thoughts will be at the bottom.
To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their hometown: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live. It was the children who saw – and felt – what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing…
The adults, knowing better, knew nothing. Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.
During a heavy rainstorm in Derry, Maine, six-year-old George “Georgie” Denbrough is chasing a paper boat down a gutter. The boat is washed down a storm drain to the dismay of Georgie, who had received the boat as a gift from his older brother Bill. Peering into the drain, Georgie sees a pair of glowing yellow eyes. Startled, Georgie is suddenly confronted by a man dressed in a silver clown suit who introduces himself as “Mr. Bob Gray”, a.k.a. “Pennywise the Dancing Clown”. Pennywise offers Georgie a balloon which he cautiously refuses; however, the clown entices Georgie to reach into the drain to retrieve his boat and then severs his arm, leaving the boy to bleed to death or die of shock in the gutter. Moments later, Dave Gardener (a neighbor) got to Georgie first, although he arrived only forty-five seconds after the first scream, George was already dead. He screamed in horror as Georgie’s corpse turned over in his hands.
The following June, Ben Hanscom, an overweight eleven-year-old boy, is harassed by a gang of bullies led by Henry Bowers. On the last day of school, Hanscom hides from his tormentors in the Barrens, where he befriends Eddie Kaspbrak, a hypochondriac boy who believes he has asthma, and “Stuttering Bill” Denbrough, George’s elder brother who suffers from a stutter and rides on a rusty bike named “Silver”. The three boys later befriend fellow misfits Richie Tozier, Stanley Uris, Beverly Marsh, and Mike Hanlon, who eventually refer to themselves as “The Losers Club”.
As the summer draws on, the Losers realize that they have each had an encounter with a seemingly omniscient, alien shape-shifting demonic entity that takes the form of whatever they fear the most: Ben as a mummy, Eddie as a leper, Bill as George’s ghost, Richie as a werewolf, Stan as two drowned boys, Beverly as a fountain of blood spurting from her bathroom sink, and Mike as a large, vicious, otherworldly bird, one not found in any of Stan’s bird-watching books that tried to kill him in an encounter at the IronWorks remains. Due to the unknown origin of the monster, the Losers refer to the creature as “It” and link It with a series of recent child murders, including that of Edward “Eddie” Corcoran who is killed by the monster in the form of the Gill-man.
Meanwhile, an increasingly unhinged and sadistic Henry Bowers begins focusing his attention on his African-American neighbor, Mike Hanlon and his father. Henry kills Mike’s dog and chases the terrified boy into the Barrens, where he befriends the other Losers. Mike tells the Losers that he was attacked by It in the form of a flesh-eating bird and they realise through Mike’s picture book that It has been around for hundreds of years. The Losers begin to suspect that It has control over Derry due to the number of unsolved disappearances and violent tragedies that go unnoticed or seem forgotten by the adults in the town.
One afternoon toward the end of summer Henry and his gang initiate a rock fight with the Losers in the Barrens. The bullies are left defeated and embarrassed – an injured Henry swears revenge on the Losers before departing. After further encounters with It in the form of Pennywise and various other manifestations, the Losers construct a makeshift American-Indian smokehole which Richie and Mike use to hallucinate It’s origins. In doing so they discover that It came to Derry millions of years before in an asteroid-like impact, and that every 27 years It awakens from a slumber underneath the town’s sewers, usually after some kind of terrible event or tragedy, to feed on children for a period of 12–16 months.
In late July, Eddie is hospitalized after an attack by Henry Bowers and several of his friends. Spying on them, Beverly witnesses one of the bullies, Patrick Hockstetter, trying to empty a refrigerator which he had been using to trap and kill injured animals, only to be killed by It in the form of flying bloodsucking leeches. Later, the Losers discover a message from It written in Patrick’s blood warning them that It will kill them.
After Eddie is released from the hospital with a broken arm, Ben makes two silver slugs out of a silver dollar, believing that silver will harm It. At this point the narrative changes and “It” informs the reader that it existed originally in a void between our universe and others, in a dimension known as the Macroverse. It boasts to the reader that It is superior to anything on earth and confirms that it chooses to prey on children because It believes their fears are easier to interpret in a physical form, which It claims is akin to “salting the meat”.
The kids return to the house on Neibolt Street where Eddie, Bill, and Richie had previously encountered It and It attacks them in the form of a werewolf. Beverly shoots a slug from Bill’s slingshot at the werewolf, injuring It, and causing It to flee back to the sewers. It, now seeing the Losers as a threat, manipulates the mind of Henry Bowers, making him kill his violent alcoholic father and providing him with a switchblade.
Henry and his two closest friends, Victor “Vic” Criss and Reginald “Belch” Huggins, follow the Losers into the sewers with the intention of killing them. It attacks the three bullies in the form of Frankenstein’s monster, ripping Vic’s head off and mutilating Belch’s face. Henry, driven insane, chases the Losers and gets lost. He eventually washes out of the sewers into a nearby river and is blamed for all of the child murders. Meanwhile, Bill discovers the “Ritual of Chüd”, an ancient ritual that allows him to enter the Macroverse to confront It. During the ritual Bill encounters Maturin, an ancient turtle and the creator of our universe (which it vomited up following a stomach-ache), who explains that It can only be defeated during a battle of wills.
Bill enters the monster’s mind through the Ritual of Chüd and discovers that It’s true form is a mass of destructive orange lights which It refers to as the “Deadlights”. With the help of Maturin, Bill is able to defeat It and send it back to its slumber. After the battle, the Losers get lost in the sewers until Beverly has sex with all the boys to bring unity back to the group. The Losers then swear a blood oath to return to Derry should It return in the future.
In July 1984 at the annual Derry carnival, three youths brutally attack a young gay man named Adrian Mellon and throw him off a bridge. They are arrested and charged with murder when Mellon’s mutilated corpse is found. One of the murderers claims that he saw a clown dressed in a silver suit kill Mellon underneath the bridge. Adrian’s partner, the other victim in the attack, had also noticed the clown but the prosecutors convince him not to mention it during the trial.
When a string of child murders occurs in Derry once again, an adult Mike Hanlon, now the town’s librarian and the only one of the Losers to remain in Derry, calls up the six former members of the Losers Club and reminds them of their childhood promise to return should the killings start again. Bill Denbrough is now a successful horror writer living in England with his actress wife, Audra. Beverly Marsh is a fashion designer in Chicago, and is married to an abusive man named Tom Rogan. Eddie Kaspbrak has moved to New York City, where he runs a limousine rental company and has married a hysterical, codependent woman similar to his hypochondriac mother.
Richie Tozier lives in Los Angeles and works as a disc jockey. Ben Hanscom is now thin and a successful architect, living in Nebraska. Stan Uris is a wealthy accountant residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to Mike’s phone calls, the Losers had buried the horror of their encounters with It. However, all but Stan reluctantly agree to return to Derry. After Mike’s phone call, Stan is so terrified of facing It again that he slits his wrists in the bathtub, writing “IT” on the wall in his own blood. Tom refuses to let Beverly go and tries to beat her, but she lashes out at him before fleeing, causing him serious injury. The five return to Derry with only the dimmest awareness of why they are doing so, remembering only absolute terror and their promise to return.
The Losers meet for lunch, where Mike reminds them that It awakens once roughly every 27 years for 12–16 months at a time, feeding on children before going into slumber again. The group decides to kill It once and for all. At Mike’s suggestion, each person explores different parts of Derry to help restore their memories. While exploring, Eddie, Richie, Beverly and Ben are faced with manifestations of It (Eddie as Belch Huggins in leper form, Richie as a Paul Bunyan statue, Beverly as the witch from Hansel & Gretel and Ben as Dracula). Bill finds his childhood Schwinn, “Silver”, and brings it to Mike’s.
Three other people are also converging on the town: Audra, who is worried about Bill, Tom, who plans to kill Beverly, and Henry Bowers, who has escaped from Juniper Hill Mental Asylum with help from It. Mike and Henry have a violent confrontation at the library. Mike is nearly killed but Henry escapes, severely injured. Henry is driven to the hotel where It instructs him to kill the rest of the Losers. Henry attacks Eddie, breaking his arm once again, but in the fight Henry is killed.
It appears to Tom and orders him to capture Audra. Tom brings Audra to It’s lair. Upon seeing It’s true form, Audra becomes catatonic and Tom drops dead from shock. Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie and Eddie learn that Mike is near death and realize they are being forced into another confrontation with It. They descend into the sewers and use their strength as a group to “send energy” to a hospitalized Mike, who fights off a nurse that is under the control of It. They reach It’s lair and find It has taken the form of a giant spider. Bill and Richie enter It’s mind through the Ritual of Chüd, but they get lost in It. To distract It and bring Bill and Richie back, Eddie runs towards It and uses his aspirator to spray medicine in It’s eye and down It’s throat. Although he is successful, It rips off Eddie’s arm. It runs away to tend to its injuries, but Bill, Richie and Ben chase after It, and find that It has laid eggs. Ben stays behind to destroy the eggs, while Bill and Richie head toward their final confrontation with It. Bill fights his way inside It’s body, locates It’s heart and destroys it. The group meet up to head out of It’s lair, and although they try to bring Audra and Eddie’s bodies with them, they are forced to leave Eddie behind with Richie having it the hardest due to him having a very close relationship with Eddie. Richie kisses Eddie on the cheek with Eddie asking his best friend not to call him “Eds”, a nickname called by Richie to Eddie which he hated, for the last time. They make it to the surface and realize that the scars on their hands from when they were children have disappeared, indicating that their ordeal is finally over.
At the same time, the worst storm in Maine’s history sweeps through Derry, and the downtown area collapses. Mike concludes that Derry is finally dying. The Losers return home and gradually begin to forget about It, Derry, and each other. Mike’s memory of the events of that summer also begin to fade, as well as any of the records he had written down previously, much to his relief, and he considers starting a new life elsewhere. Ben and Beverly leave together and become a couple, and Richie returns to California. Bill is the last to leave Derry. Before he goes, he takes Audra, still catatonic, for a ride on Silver, which awakens her from her catatonia.
Out of all of King’s books this one is my second favorite (Pet Sematary is my number one). I love when horror stories can get inside my head and put me in the story; that’s what IT does. It takes you back to your childhood, to all the irrational fears that you had and makes you think, what if those were real? It’s also one of the best stories about true friendship and how powerful that can be.
As for the movie, I mentioned above that re-reading this book made me like it even more. I’ve seen the movie twice and after reading this book I realize just how much they got totally perfect. The opening scene is to a tee how the book opens. The way Pennywise is described in the book is almost identical to Skarsgard’s Pennywise. Every single kid in that movie is their book counterpart almost exactly. In my opinion, it’s one of the best movie adaptations I’ve ever seen and it makes me even more excited for part two. As with all movies based on books, there was a lot left out but if they were to make a movie totally true to this book it would have to be ten hours long.
I feel I must mention the scene in the book that has scandalized all of the good people that are just now discovering IT. The movie released so naturally people are curious about the book. That curiosity turned to outrage when they heard about the child orgy. I get it, I really do. The thoughts of six eleven and twelve year old boys having sex with one girl in a sewer is not something I’m comfortable with. It’s for sure not my favorite scene from the book. It’s not too graphic in the book but you know what’s going on, and I mean, it’s graphic enough BUT there is a reason for it. The whole book is about these kids, and then them as adults, defeating a monstrous, shape shifting creature that’s not even from Earth. They use the magic of their friendship and their love for each other to defeat IT. The sex is just part of that. The sex is also symbolic of how they’ve had to grow up. This monster has stolen their childhood and they’ve had to endure more than kids should have to. Would I have written it? No, but I’m not King. The book is fiction so I think everybody needs to unclench their pearls and settle down.
If for some reason you have actually read this whole review I hope you liked it. If you loved the movie do yourself a favor and read the book. Doing that just adds so much more to the experience. As always, I want to hear your thoughts! Tell me what you think about the book, the movie or the old mini-series. I’ve seen and read it all so we can discuss it all. Thank you so much for reading and have a great day!
*I’ve also reviewed the 2017 movie so just follow that link for that review!