I read this book the first time when I was in high school. It was the first Stephen King book I read. I had seen that scene from the movie with Sissy Spacek covered in blood, all wide eyed and creepy looking. And considering the length of most of King's books, this one was comparatively short.
Carrie is a story of an awkward, unpopular 17 year old girl who, because of being raised by her fanatical Christian mother, has not been taught about puberty, or about any socially normal behavior. The story opens with Carrie getting her first menstrual period in the shower of the high school gym locker room. Unaware of what is really happening Carrie is convinced she is bleeding to death. Of course all the girl take the opportunity to mock and degrade her, some even throwing tampons and sanitary napkins at her. Even the gym teacher joins in the yelling, until she realizes that Carrie really is frightened because she has no idea what is happening.
After this incident, Carrie slowly begins to discover she has telekinetic powers, powers she has always had (as the book states incidents from childhood), but is just now beginning to control. Meanwhile the "ring leader" of the locker room incident Chris, escapes punishment because her father is a prominent local figure. She begins to plot her revenge on Carrie, who she blames for "causing her problems".
The book is written as a series of documents, rather then in the first person. This provides great intrigue and a desire to have more information. It also, however causes a disconnect between the reader and the title character, who truly lives a horrifically tragic life. This disconnect though feels intentional, for without it the reader would not see this as a horror novel. If it were written from Carrie's point of view it would be too easy to get caught up in grieving for her situation. And that's just not what the book is about, that is a small part of it, but let's face it, it's really about Carrie getting some revenge, right? And who better to be born with these powers, then a girl who has lived a torturous life at the hands of her mother and classmates?
Another saving grace is Sue Snell, a girl who does participate with the crowd in belittling Carrie in the locker room, but soon comes to regret this and begins to see Carrie for what she is, a trapped scared girl with no friends. Sue convinces her popular boyfriend to ask Carrie to the prom. The scene at the prom is so much worse in the book then in the movie. The electrocution of the kids on stage, the death of Tommy Ross, who was beginning to actually be attracted to Carrie. The amazing way King makes it sad for the kids burning to death in the gym after Carrie sets it on fire, though the reader knows most of them had made Carrie's life miserable.
The death of Carries mother was another intense moment. The description of her heart slowly slowing down was something that creeped me out for years after I read this.
Bottom Line: An intriguing read, if you like Stephen King, I think you'll like Carrie.