It by Stephen King
I had two copies of this book as a teenager. Both were secondhand. The one I still have was falling apart when I bought it at a St Vinnies somewhere but I stuck the spine back together with packing tape and read and re-read it until it fell apart again. It was the book that got me hooked on Stephen King, and it is something I think about almost every day.
There were three things that made this book stand out for me. One was that one of the first characters to die, Adrian Mellon, was an underage homosexual being mocked for his mincing gait and generally being a faggot. He is attacked by teenagers and thrown off a bridge into the river, where it bites him and drags him under to die. The utter brutality of this moment terrified me because I saw in Adrian my own dire future.
Second was a scene in a junkyard of confused teenage sexuality, wherein some straight boys experiment with one another. Their camaraderie and tense approach to what they saw as a sexual taboo was frankly quite arousing. Here, I hoped I saw some future, until it all went south for them. I suppose I was torn between wanting to be them and desperately wishing I was not one of them.
But the thing that really stuck with me was the notion of friendship that permeates It. I didn’t grow up in a small town, so my friendship bonds were not forged through proximity and similarity of lifestyle. So I will never experience the strength of such a bond, but It gave me a sense of it, enough for me to miss it without ever having felt it, and enough to make my heart break with nostalgia at the very thought.
It is a horror novel, with one of the most iconic monsters in history – Pennywise the clown – but for me, it is a tale of friendship, ennui and self-discovery, above all else, which is why I will always adore it.