Jee reviews a #pageturner: The Institute by Stephen King #TheInstitute @ScribnerBooks #thriller #supernatural

Title/Author: The Institute by Stephen King

Publisher: Scribner

In a nutshell (Publisher):

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephen King, the most riveting and unforgettable story of kids confronting evil since It.

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of ItThe Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

Verdict: A gripping, engaging thriller with characters that will stay with you for a long while. My first King, and will definitely not be my last!

My thoughts:

The novel opened with Tim Jamieson, an ex-police officer whose life was about to change when he decided to give up his flight seat to a federal officer in exchange for cash and a refund, then hitchhike a ride to New York. He somehow ended up in DuPray, a small town, where he eventually took up a job as a night knocker. Readers were forewarned: “Great events turn on small hinges.

The following chapter, we are introduced to ‘The Smart Kid’, Luke Ellis. One night, he was taken away from his parents who were then killed in their sleep by the kidnappers. Luke was stunned when he woke up in a place that wasn’t his home. He was told the place was called the Institute. Kids from as young as 8 to as old as 16 with high BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) were taken to the Institute. These kids have supernatural powers, mostly telekinetic and telepathy.

The Institute was divided into Front Half, Back Half, then back back half. Kids in the Front Half were given more freedom than Back Half, where the kids were locked in their rooms. The Front Half kids were given shots until they see dots, known as ‘Stasi Lights’. Some of the kids’ powers were believed to get a little stronger after these injections, some stayed the same, and some developed both abilities. Luke likened being in the Institute is like “being in a mental hospital where the crazy are kept but never cured.” Kids were so traumatized and tortured that some died there.

Some parts I had to skim because it was too much for me – the big scene of Harry in the cafeteria, Luke being forced underwater, and poor poor Avester.., what that little boy had to put up was unimaginable! But sometimes skimming was a little hard to do too, as I was afraid that I’d miss out important parts of the story, like how The Institute functioned as a whole, why they did what they did, the people working there, and why would anyone work for an organization who torture kids?

This is my first King and I was told it’s a little different from his previous works and ‘not so scary’, as it didn’t have ghosts or any demonic characters. Yes true, but it had even scarier characters: human beings torturing other human beings. What disturbed me the most was the fact that they were so desensitized after doing their jobs for so long, that this became like a routine to them, and they felt nothing; some even enjoyed hurting the kids, and could still go on about their lives after what they had done to the children.

Some parts could’ve been shortened, but overall, an absorbing, thought-provoking read, a page turner for sure. What I enjoyed most was definitely the characters, especially the kids – Luke, Kalisha, Nick, George, Avery, even the ones who arrived later at the Institute, like Harry, Helen and Iris. Tim and Orphan Annie were some of my favorites too although they only appeared in the beginning and towards the end of the book.

Some parts made me a little teary – touched by how amazing these kids are, loved how they can find humor in a depressing place like this and how they bonded and fought for each other despite their differences. ‘The Institute’ also gave me food for thought: how far would humans go to save themselves? Would you have the lives of many sacrificed just so you can save a few of your own?

Have you read this book? What did you think? If you’re a fan of King’s, did you enjoy this as much as his previous works? If you haven’t read this, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!

20 Comments Add yours

  1. mrbooks15 says:

    Haven’t ventured into Stephen King so far–but I sure do agree that human beings are far more demonic than any demons–I could among the scarier stories I’ve read Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell where there weren’t any witches but only humans who were far worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      I totally agree with you! Sad to say, humans are indeed far worse… 😦 Do you plan to read any of King’s books?

      Like

  2. inkandplasma says:

    This one is on my list for next year, I can’t wait. I’m on a real Stephen Kingn kick lately

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I did 🙂 WHich one of his books have you read recently?

      Like

  3. nsfordwriter says:

    Really interesting review Jee – and although I’ve read a few Kings this doesn’t sound like one I want to read. Do you think you will try any more of his books?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Yes! What would you suggest, NS?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. nsfordwriter says:

        Well it’s been a long time since I was into Stephen King, but I’ve recently re-read The Shining and liked it a lot (review coming up), it’s also one of his shorter novels – so it’s still long, but not ridiculously long 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jee Wan says:

        Thank you for the recommendation, NS! Looking forward to reading your review! ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Rae Reads says:

    I am a King fan in general, and after reading your review, I will definitely get this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did, Rae! ❤️😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rae Reads says:

    Dr. Sleep, the sequel to the Shining is a good book. I haven’t seen the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Is Dr Sleep good too?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rae Reads says:

        Dr. Sleep, the novel is great. I have seen only the trailer for the movie. It looks very scary. The book is scary enough for me, and it is written quite well.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jee Wan says:

        Thank you for the recommendation, Rae! 🙂

        Like

  6. Sounds like rollet coaster. Not sure of if could take it. I read”Christine”, the only King book I ever read and it had me afraid of car engines rumbling afterwards. Admittedly, I was much younger and it was my first experience in the genre.
    Great review, Jee 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Scarlett! ❤️ So you plan to re-read Christine and see if it’ll affect you differently this time? 😁

      Like

  7. Fantastic review, Jee! This does sound like a tough read! I want to read it but then again I’m scared to. Like you pointed out, I would want to skim but then it takes away from the story when you do. I’m thinking of trying another King book first like The Green Mile. That has been recommended to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Oh yes! The Green Mile! My dad recommended me that book! Might wanna check that out too! Thanks for reminding me 😁 ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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