Title/Author: The Institute by Stephen King
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 It, The 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!Tweet
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!