So this week, one of my favourite books turns 40! That book is Stephen King's Carrie and I cite it as one of the most influential books I've ever read. Sure, it isn't the book that most people would say is a book that influenced them, but it is for me. I found it at the exact point in my life when I needed it most.
I found it in my first year of secondary school. I was the girl with bad teeth and a mess of ratty blonde hair. I preferred Broadway musicals to hip hop and I was more likely to be find buried in a book than buried in the arms of a boy. I didn't quite fit in and I, along with every other student, knew it. It was during this time that I began working as a student librarian. I'd chosen to attend the school because of the beautiful, old library. There seemed something so hallowed and peaceful about it. It was a good place to hide, though it didn't really feel like hiding. I found so many books, so many first loves, on those book shelves. On of them was Carrie. The cover featured Sissy Spacek's face covered in blood. I'd always been interested in horror and I'd heard my father mention the book before. I quickly checked it out of the library and took it to read on the forty minute bus journey home at the end of the day.
I sat down at the front of the bus and began reading. I'd learned that sitting near the bus driver minimised the bullying rather than sitting further back, in the middle of a crowd of people. I was instantly captured by the narrative style, using fictional newspaper clippings, letters, articles. Very quickly I became interested in the book. One kid, a veritable show off, leaned over my chair and began reading an extract from the book out loud to some of the other kids. It was, of course, the part where Carrie has her first period. He began reading it aloud to other students who laughed at me and began mocking me for reading something "perverted" and "gross" in my spare time. The boy took the book from my hands and promptly hit me around the back of the head with it. I snatched the book back, closed it and sat in silence for the next thirty minutes just staring blankly out at the road ahead. That was a real changing point for me. The more I read this book, the more I empathised with Carrie. I knew all too well what it was to be the weird girl in school. Reading this book, for me, was a strangely therapeutic experience. Though I didn't have the powers that Carrie had, it made me start to stand up for myself. I began finding a new strength in myself. I realised that even the weird, geeky kids have power and that allowing people to walk over you wouldn't really solve the problem. From that point on I stood up for myself more. All too often we're told to just ignore bullies but I've found that the more you ignore them, the more they will walk over you. In all honesty, I did sometimes imagine having telekinetic powers and exacting vengeance upon my bullies but after reading Carrie I found myself feeling a little stronger.
Now, as a writer, I highly appreciate King's writing style. Over the years I saw the Sissy Spacek version of the film, then the one starring Angela Bettis. I'm yet to see the most recent adaptation featuring Chloe Grace Moretz, mainly because I felt the trailers gave away so much of the plot that it missed an opportunity to properly introduce the horror of the text to a new generation of kids. I would urge every young girl, or every young person who ever feels left out, to read this book. Maybe don't use it as inspiration to take revenge on your entire high school, but you should certainly read it and realise that we do have some power within us: the power to endure, the power to stand up for ourselves, the power to make people realise that they were wrong for treating us so poorly to begin with.