Book Review: The Outsider by Stephen King

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with an upside-down image on the cover Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would s...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with an upside-down image on the cover

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins, A book with at least a four-star rating on Goodreads, A book by an author who has written more than 20 books (advanced)

TW: sexual assault, child abuse/pedophilia, self harm, violence, kidnapping/abduction, death, gore, racism, sexism, bigotry, homophobia

This is another case of "the adaptation convinced me to finally read this." A Halloween book swap buddy gifted me The Outsider last year, and I made sure it was the first book I read in 2020 to prep for the HBO series adaptation. Boyo, let me tell you - this is one of the darkest books I've read. This book is heavily focused on the murder and sodomy of a child. It was a really difficult book to read at times, and I can imagine anyone would have a difficult time reading, particularly anyone who actually has a kid. Like most King books, this one is heavy with triggers (some minor and not used often in the book, and others are heavy plot points).

When a boy is found dead in the local woods, all evidence points to local legend, little league coach, and high school English teacher Terry Maitland. But there's also proof Maitland was a hundred miles away at the time of the crime. As the investigation deepens and lives are completely uprooted, all answers seem to deliver more questions. Evil has a face, and sometimes it may be the face of a person you thought you knew. 

Whew, this book was a tough read. It was haunting and enthralling, but one of the most disturbing things I've ever read. I almost put it down early-on. But I ended up pushing through and was totally creeped out throughout, but it was a really good book. It's pretty much a given I love most King novels. His writing is strong, his story-telling is brilliant, and everything comes to life on the pages. It's the same in this novel, though overall I rated this one less stars than I usually do, so I will share a bit more about what I didn't love.

I was confused by the cast of characters at first. Like most King novels, there were a plethora of characters (main and side), all with back stories and even a couple with the same first name. It was a little messy for me in the first couple of chapters (especially with all the witnesses and the different law officers), but most of the side characters lost traction early in the novel, which made it much easier to connect everyone. It actually became easier to figure everyone out compared to other King novels.

There was a weird romance piece to the plot that I didn't enjoy or appreciate. I don't think it added to the story at all. In fact, I think it took a little away from it. And it's ultimately the reason I rated this book four stars instead of five. I love some good romance, and I think it can ultimately be woven into a non-romantic plotline in a way that increases the story's value and entertainment. I don't think that way the case here, and it really irked me.

Lastly, I really liked Holly Gibney's character - who I think may have some OCD and/or autistic tendencies. It was never spelled out, but seemed to be quite implied. She was such a unique and lovable character, and such a strong female who really stood her ground. I loved her. She did seem to have a connection to the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, which I haven't read before. I typically love the connections I find between King's different stories, but I felt like this one was quite a spoiler, which was kind of bothersome. This isn't part of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, but the connection was pretty heavy, so I hate that it spoiled some possibly main plot points of the series. Be aware that if you plan to read those, you'll likely want to do so prior to reading The Outsider.

"Reality is thin ice, but most people skate on it their whole lives and never fall through until the very end." - The Outsider, Stephen King

This book is haunting, disturbing, creepy. It's well-written, there isn't an overabundance of characters. But an unfortunate romantic subplot took away from the main storyline. There are some spoilers for other King novels, but overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It made me quite sick to my stomach pretty regularly throughout the book, but it was such a good mixture of crime thriller/detective work and questioning of the supernatural. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone because of the story's subject matter, but I would recommend this to those who have read the above trigger warnings and still feel compelled to read it.

Goodreads rating: ★★★★☆

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