A Book Review: “11/22/63” by Stephen King

I’m not sure if any of my fellow readers can relate, but during the school year, I always find myself in a bit of a reading slump due to both my lack of time and energy. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is sit down and continue putting my brain to use by reading a book, but when I say my mental health is at an all-time high when I am consistently reading, I mean it.

This last school year took a toll on me, and I only finished seven books, so naturally, I decided I was going to read as many books as I could this summer, and my need for achievement really pulled through there. I read a grand total of 20 books over the course of the last four months, and my delusional side has never been better.

Not only am I convinced that I will one day have a meet-cute in a bookstore where I run into the love of my life and drop my books, and he falls in love with me because I’m a quirky girl who loves reading and wears glasses; I also believe that I could easily time travel and save the world. This brings me to the topic of this article, a review of one of my favorite books this summer: “11/22/63” by Stephen King.

This book had me in a chokehold from beginning to end. The amount of times where I questioned what King was doing is outrageous but also the reason I continued to pick up the book with every opportunity presented to me. The plot twists, constant action, and overall setting were some of the most intriguing writing I have beheld, and if you can’t tell already, this one is a five-star review.

When it comes to setting, King, as always, pulled through with what would at first appear to be completely typical circumstances, but after a few chapters, becomes the reason behind the thrill that follows. In the few books I’ve read by King, he consistently introduces you to a very underwhelming picture of normalcy but then brings some type of creative element like a portal–or time travel in this case–that obviously adds to the story and piques your interest, so to keep you coming back for more.

This book takes place in the small town of Lisbon Falls, Maine, where Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, is going about his life. One day, everything completely changes when the local diner owner, Al Templeton, decides that Jake is the perfect person for a job he needs help with. Al, without an explanation, asks Jake to trust him and takes him back to the diner pantry. Then, grabbing some foreign currency out of his pocket, Al tells Jake to walk to the back corner of the tiny room and feel around for an invisible step.

Of course, Jake doesn’t believe him until he is climbing down said stairs into a land dated around 50 years prior. This is where the adventure of a lifetime begins, and when Al decides to ask Jake a question that will undoubtedly change the course of history: Will he help him stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating J.F.K.?

Jake’s agreement leads him down a path of confusion and discovery of the past world that eventually leads to what he would’ve never expected. Along the way, he also decides to try his luck at saving some other people whether it be a child from a fatal beating by an abusive father or an innocent girl from a mistaken gunshot.

In the end, Jake learns the lesson that there are such things as the butterfly effect and every action has an equal opposite reaction. Although he discovers some pretty amazing things and makes some hero-worthy decisions, not everything works in his favor in the end.

Now that I’ve described the entire setting, let’s move on to another part of King’s writing that is what I can only describe as captivating: character development. Throughout this story, we not only see Jake become a whole new person but also his effect on the past and the people there, too.

The first character you get to know besides Jake is Al Templeton, I kind yet abrasive man who has been using his resources–resources being the time-traveling portal–to buy small things like burgers for his diner at discounted prices. He seems a bit surface-level and shallow at first, but then you come to know the true intelligence lying behind his eyes, you’ll be blown away by everything he knows about Kennedy’s assassination and every little consequence that came with it.

While living in the past, Jake falls in love with a lively school librarian named Sadie, and her character is up there on my list of favorites. A woman who first appears to be the cookie-cutter version of 1960s femininity, she eventually opens up and exposes her spunky and stubborn side. I’m not sure if any of my fellow readers can relate, but I can really get attached to characters, and she is definitely one of them.

Not only was the setting and character development amazing, King also did an amazing job with the romantic side plot which I believe is part of any good book. I really wasn’t expecting this from King with all of his thriller, horror, and everything but sunshine and rainbows demographic, so it was a nice surprise when I got to read about the beauty of falling in love and finding a person you can completely be yourself with through the lens of a man from the 21st century. Quite honestly, it brought something extra that I didn’t realize the book needed.

All in all, this book, and I’m sure every book I will ever read by Stephen King, is up there in my favorites due to the brilliance that is King’s creativity. I wish I had the intelligence to create these elaborate worlds in my head, but for now, I’ll depend on the authors of the world to provide me with new expanses of imagination. If you take anything away from this, let it be that this book is a must-read, and you will undoubtedly be pulled into the trap that is Stephen King’s mind.

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