Book Review: The Body by Stephen King

TW: Death, violence, missing child/ren, racial slurs My family watched Stand By Me countless times when I was younger, but it w...

TW: Death, violence, missing child/ren, racial slurs

My family watched Stand By Me countless times when I was younger, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I found out it was actually based on a novella written by Stephen King. King's stories are usually full of terror and monsters. And though The Body is certainly a haunting story, it's not at all supernatural.

It's the summer of 1960 in Castle Rock, Maine, and word has it there's a body in the woods a couple of towns over just off the railroad tracks. It's presumed to be a boy that's been notably missing for weeks. Gordie LaChance, 12, and his three closest friends (all from dysfunctional or abusive homes) decide to secretly make their way to the body to be the ones to find and report it, thus becoming local heroes. Through their 20+ mile journey, they're forced to confront life, death, and their impending futures.

This novella is basically It, if It had exactly zero supernatural elements. And that's not a criticism. The Body is a heartbreaking, emotional coming-of-age story. It proves Stephen King is not just a master of horror, but a masterful storyteller who can write a damn book, and this book spits on anyone who ever said he couldn't write a good ending to save his life.

Like any Stephen King story, the character development in this book was exceptional. Though the story was barely 20% as long as a traditional SK novel, that didn't stop the story from immediately pulling me in, acquainting me with the characters, and giving me one hell of a good ride. The story is told from the perspective of Gordie as an adult reflecting back on his summer when he was twelve, so as a reader, you get to really know him. What you learn of his buddies - Chris, Teddy, and Vern - is through his perspective, so you don't delve in on each character quite like you would in a full-length King novel. Still, you can picture those kids, their families, and the other citizens of Castle Rock as the story is told. I also enjoyed the other Castle Rock easter eggs, like a mention of a certain rabid dog.

"The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them. It's hard to make strangers care about the good things in your life." - The Body, Stephen King

There's rarely a time when I would not recommend a King novel (to date, I don't know of one I'm not a fan of), but this is a King story I would highly, highly recommend to someone who may be interested in giving his works a try, but have been too afraid to take the leap. It's not supernatural or horrific, but it is haunting in a variety of ways. It's sad and heartbreaking. Maybe a bit of thriller mixed with contemporary fiction, but overall it's a coming-of-age story that takes place over a weekend. It's a truly fantastic story and an enthralling read.

Goodreads rating: ★★

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