[Carrie] Books That Shine: A Chronological Reread of Stephen King

My name is Jamie Stewart, I am a horror author of such works as I Hear The Clattering Of The Keys And Other Fever Dreams and Mr. Jones.  But today I’m not writing about myself. No, I’m indulging in another favourite hobby of mine, writing about the works of others, which is a great way to support them. I love supporting other authors through reviews, posts and discussions. I also love Stephen King, something you can read about in my essay Room 217 (Why I Never Left)

feature image for article: Room 217, Why I Never Left

For the last two years, I have been rereading Stephen King’s work chronologically following a night in The Stanley Hotel reading The Shining.

For those that may not know The Stanley is where King got the idea for the novel.  What turned into a quest to enjoy the man’s work and discover how his writing has changed over the years became an opportunity to review, rate and rank them all.  I want to take that one step further with this ongoing (hopefully) monthly exercise by offering a suggestion of modern horror that would make a good companion with each of his books.  

For those wishing to know my ranking system will be split into tiers, which are as follows:  

> Books That Shine

> Books That Surprise 

> Books That Try, Sometimes Too Hard

> Headache Books. 

If you stick around in the next few months, you’ll begin to understand how I came upon the name of each. The overall aim once I’ve finished with every last King book is to release the entire best to least list.  As with everything I intend to do here this is entirely personal, what I like you may not and vice versa.  That being said I hope this can encourage discussions on the man’s work as well as offers readers books by authors they may not know about yet. 

Without further ado let’s start at the beginning with Carrie.


Carrie is the first book published by Stephen King.

Written at a time in his life were his family used what money he made from selling short stories to pay whatever unforeseen expenses happened to spring up, and it shows in the novel’s length and pace. This is one lean, mean story that despite its length packs one hell of a punch. It’s on record that King tossed this story in a wastebasket because it was going to be too long and because he felt he couldn’t do justice to a mostly female cast of characters experiencing high school. His wife, Tabby, saved it from being thrown out and offered to help him convey the female high school experience. Thank God she did. Carrie remains a hard-boiled horrifying read. 

book cover for Carrie by Stephen King

It also features plenty of action in the last forty or so pages in when the bullied Carrie unleashes her telekinetic powers on her hometown of Chamberlain. These pages are filled with gruesome scenes of death and destruction. However, these are not the most horrifying sequences in the book as even at a young age King placed character first above spectacle. As mentioned, Carrie is bullied but not just by her peers but at home as well by her religious zealot of a mother, one of King’s scariest creations to date. 

Margaret White is a sad, oppressive figure who believes in her religious mania so devoutly that she lives in permanent fear of committing sin of any kind but mostly the sin of intercourse, of desire. This mania leads her to be physically and verbally abusive to Carrie with the aim to ‘save’ Carrie from committing such sins. For Carrie, this means that the one person she should have to fight her corner after a day of being bullied by her peers is instead a fearsome tyrant. One could also argue that if Margaret White was not religious Carrie would not be bullied by her classmates to the extent she is. Margaret is known throughout the local community for her beliefs and it’s when Carrie follows them at school that her peers begin to harass her. Carrie White would still be bullied simply because of some of the nasty characters such as Chris Hargenson in this story, but perhaps it would have been to a lesser degree. 

This is why Carrie works so well as a story and why it’s still so important.

King’s early writing dealt with archetypal premises. Carrie is a story about the Pariah, the outsider. Salem’s Lot is a vampire story. The Shining is at its heart a ghost story. The Stand is about a plague. Carrie presents a world of consequences, in which those that are deemed Popular rule those that are considered Different and as a result are punished for doing so. It showcases this world boldly through the lens of one of the most taboo subjects that of a young woman entering into female maturity. I often wonder what young men and women of the same age as those featured in this book would think if they were taught this book in high school. Because the reader feels sympathy for Carrie White throughout the novel’s entirety even as she is destroying Chamberlain. In fact, one of the most horrifying lines in the whole book is when we see a sign spray painted on Carrie White’s home after the climax saying Carrie got what she deserved. It’s a devastating line because it shows that even after all the death and destruction the narrowed minded people of this book still haven’t thought of why Carrie did what she did. She’s still being bullied even in death. The fact that King achieves this level of feeling for a character who becomes the villain of the story is amazing. 

Tier: Books That Shine


Companion story: Take Your Turn, Teddy by Haley Newlin

Take Your Turn, Teddy was a novel that never leaves your head.  Like Carrie Teddy is raised in an abusive home.  Unlike Carrie, he doesn’t have any telekinetic powers to help him protect himself.  That’s okay, though, because Teddy has a friend, a friend who can do things other people can’t.

Take Your Turn, Teddy by Haley Newlin cover image

Haley Newlin walks a fine line here that most horror stories that feature child protagonists seem incapable of having them sound and think like a child.  Adult readers are able to read scenes understanding the devastation in them before Teddy has the chance to.  Through this Haley shows the reader that it’s the human horrors that are truly the worst.  Then just when you think you know where this story is going Haley hits you out of the left-field, taking you on a journey you never expected to go. 

Part supernatural story, part detective tale this is a must-read for horror fans.

Jamie Stewart

Jamie Stewart


Jamie Stewart started writing stories at the age of nine inspired by R.L Stein's Goosebumps series and the Resident Evil franchise that he was far too young to play in hindsight. He is the author of I Hear the Clattering of the Keys and Other Fever Dreams, a collection of horror stories, and Mr. Jones, a coming-age-novel.  He is also the co-editor of Welcome to the Funhouse, a horror anthology for Blood Rites Horror.  He has also self-published four horror novelette’s that have all peaked at Number 1 on Amazon's Best Seller's List and have been reviewed by the Night Worms team.  He has published short stories in SPINE magazine as well as had audio versions made for various podcast such as Into the Gloom and Horror Oasis. 

He can be found on Instagram @jamie.stewart.33 where he reviews and promotes books.

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