Book of the week

Stephen King’s ‘The Institute’ is entertaining and unsettling

Ashley Pelletier, Associate Arts and Life Editor

If you have any sort of interest in fictional stories, chances are you know of Stephen King and his infamous horror novels. “The Institute” has the same suspense featured in books such as “It,” “The Shining” and “Carrie,” but it is a very unique kind of horror.

“The Institute,” published in September 2019, follows Luke Ellis, a 12-year-old prodigy who has been kidnapped and taken to a top-secret facility in middle-of-nowhere Maine. The facility was created to house children with telepathy and telekinesis (referred to in the book as TP and TK), but also to extract their powers in abusive manners.

Photo from Scribner

At times, the book can be a tough read, especially as the main characters are faced with torture at the hands of adults, but it is amazingly written. Each main character has distinguished personalities, and the reader can relate to them in different ways.

It is interesting to see how Ellis, a TK, interacts with the other characters, a majority of which he claims he wouldn’t have been friends with in any other situation — particularly Avery Dixon. Dixon is a 10-year-old boy that is rather small for his age and still has a problem with wetting the bed, but he is also brave and smart. He is the most powerful TP that the Institute has seen in a long time.

As the Institute continues to test Ellis, he realizes that he has also developed TP. He uses this ability to communicate with Dixon through their minds, and they hatch a plan to escape with the help of Maureen, an older woman who works as a housekeeper for the Institute.

My favorite thing about “The Institute” is its opening. If you read the blurb from the back of the book, the opening section of the novel makes no sense as it relates to a different set of characters. Then, as the story of the main characters progresses, you begin to forget about the characters in the beginning. However, they all play an integral role in the book’s ending, making for a satisfying conclusion.

You can feel the tension as Ellis attempts to escape from the Institute with Mrs. Sigsby, the woman who runs the institute and the rest of the people in charge hot on his tail. The action comes to its peak as Ellis is saved by the characters from the beginning of the story.

When Ellis returns to the Institute, the children he left behind are using their powers to destroy the building, killing most of them in the process. However, some of Ellis’s friends are saved and returned to their living family members.

“The Institute” is over 500 pages long. It is by no means a light read, but I wholly recommend it nonetheless. It got me invested in a way that no novel ever has before. It took me about two days to finish in which a shorter book would have taken three or four days. King packs so much excitement and entertainment into the pages that it doesn’t feel as long as it actually is. If that doesn’t tell you something about how much I loved this story, I don’t know what will.