Monday, May 10, 2010

Christine, by Stephen King

Christine, by Stephen King. New York: Signet, 1983. ISBN-10: 0451160444; ISBN-13: 978-0451160447. 528 p.

Plot Summary
Arnie is a loser. Every high school has at least two--a girl and a boy--and he's the boy at Libertyville High. He's too scrawny to fit in with the jocks, doesn't fit in with the intellectuals because he has no specialty, even though he's smart, and out with the girls because of terrible acne. But Artie is great with one thing--cars. When he sees an old junker, a 1958 Plymouth Fury, on the side of the road with a For Sale sign hanging in the window, it's love at first sight. But the car, Christine, isn't just a car. She's possessed--and out for blood.

Critical Evaluation
Stephen King is often called the Master of Horror, and this book is a stellar example showcasing King's skills at creating setting and developing his characters. King's earlier works--including Carrie, Cujo, The Shining, 'Salem's Lot, and Christine, are especially effective examples of the horror genre done well. A creeping sense of horror builds as King slowly sets the scene, and the buildup pays off at the tense, transfixing climax of Christine's reign of terror.

Reader’s Annotation
Arnie is a loser whose only real talent is working with mechanical things--especially cars. When he first sees Christine, a 1958 Plymouth Fury in terrible condition, it's love at first sight. Yet, as Artie restores Christine to mint condition, it becomes clear that Christine is more that just a car--she's a killing machine, and she's out for blood.

Author Information
Stephen King is renowned for his skill at writing horror. Born in Portland, Maine, he graduated from the University of Maine at Orono, where he met his wife, Tabitha (they married in 1971). Although Stephen was qualified to teach English at the high school level, he was unable to find work as a teacher after graduation, so he worked at an industrial laundry while his wife worked at Dunkin' Donuts. He still found time to write, despite an exhausting job, and eventually was employed by a high school in Hampden, Maine. He sold his first novel, Carrie, and the paperback rights sold for a very nice price that enabled him to begin working full-time. Since the publication of Carrie, he has published nearly 80 books, mainly novels and short-story collections (A complete list of all his publications can be found at his personal website.). He and his wife have three children, and they live in Maine. More biographical details can be found at

King has been vocal in his support of building bridges between popular and literary fiction. In an interview at Powell', he explains that "there's a whole range of people who are doing really, really good work, that we call popular fiction. First of all, it's an artificial distinction between literary fiction and popular fiction. I sometimes think that literary fiction is a term that writers and critics give to a certain kind of well-written fiction that doesn't sell very much. That's the criteria, and a certain prejudice kicks in against you if you do sell a lot of books. The way the prejudice works, it's never scathing, outright, but it goes something like this: If three million people are reading X, I don't really need to read X to know that that is a bad writer's work. Because all I do is divide three million by the average IQ and come out with a minus number, and that's the IQ of people reading that book. That's bullshit, is all, it's just bullshit" (link). As a writer of popular fiction, he tries never to dismiss his readers because of what they like to read, and wishes that the media establishment would do the same.

Adult crossover

Curriculum Ties

Booktalking Ideas
-Read intro to Arnie as a character, especially the ways he doesn't fit in with any of the groups at his high school.
-Read the hallucination Dennis (Arnie's best friend) has when he first sits in Christine. He hallucinates that the car is in mint condition, with Christine telling him to take a drive, and it freaks him out.

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 9-12

Challenge Issues
Language, graphic violence, disrespect for parents/elders

I included this book because King's early novels, many about the horrors of high school (especially Carrie and Christine) are appealing to teens who are ready to move past the sterile, short horror novels meant for high school students (such as books by authors like R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike). I love Stephen King and I thought Christine was a perfect choice to recommend as a good adult crossover, specifically because its descriptions of high school as a horrible place for those who don't fit in. It's an appealing notion.


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