The Institute by Stephen King

I need to start this review off by saying I was very nervous for this story. I loved the synopsis and wanted this to feel somewhat like another “IT.” The beginning for me was very slow and I started to struggle just a bit, but I feel like that was just probably me feeling over hyped and playing on the ominous cover.

Anyway, let’s get into the story. Tim Jamieson is the main focus for the first 40-60 pages. We follow a man who seems to be questioning his life at the point and has taken to drifting. He ends up in a very small town, Dupray, where he begins to feel like he could settle for a bit. He takes up a job as a night knocker after handling a robber attempt.

Miles away from Tim, a boy named Luke Ellis is anxiously waiting to start college. I think he is 12 -13 at this point, I can’t remember exactly his age BUT it is very clear that the boy is special, and in other ways than just his smarts. Late at night the unthinkable happens and Luke is kidnapped while his parents are brutally murdered. Luke wakes up in a room that looks very similar to his but he soon realizes that he is not at home and somewhere that is not very safe.

He learns very quickly that he is a patient/prisoner inside an institution with other children who have been kidnapped. All the kids who have been kidnapped are not necessarily a genius, like Luke, but they all have low levels of different psychic abilities. Luke starts to get close to some of the other resident children and they begin to lean on one another for support, as they undergo a battery of tests. Luke is also informed about the divide of the Institute by his friend Kalisha, known as Front Half and Back Half.

Front Half is where Luke and his friends currently resided. Tests would be performed on them so they could see the “dots” or Stasi Lights, and push them to unlock their powers. They were given tokens for every time they underwent a test and didn’t fight it, even if it felt like they were going to pass out or worse, even die. The children were also meant to watch “movies” where they had to focus on target people. The tests would get more extreme, and kids who seemed to be at a plateau with their talents will be sent to the Back Half, where the kids believe you go to die. They aren’t far off from their guessing but what happens at Back Half is even worse than they could ever imagine.

Without giving too much away, Tim comes to play a very important role to the kids of the Institute and uncovering the truth of what is going on with the testing and how far of a reach those involved in the Institute really have on the towns not only surrounding the building but beyond the Institute’s grounds.

A lot of people compare this book to the Netflix series “Stranger Things” and a different take on the Losers Club from “IT” and I can say that yes, there are similarities but the book is different and stands alone on its own. It is definitely more graphic in nature when it comes to the tests that the kids undergo and the deaths, in comparison to the the cast of Stranger Things. The kids in the Netflix show undergo major challenges and obstacles that normal children don’t, and yes Eleven does go through a battery of test but the overall tone is not as dark as The Institute.

As far as the “IT” comparison, I feel the similarities only extend to the fact that in both stories there is a group of kids that are up against an evil force or entity and supernatural powers are at play. I do feel that the Institute would be an amazing mini-series, like the original IT was adapted for television. The story is strong, and the characters, if casted right, will have the audience on the edge of their seats.

As mentioned before, I do not want to give out any spoilers for this book because it was a very quick read after you get pass the initial start, but looking back, it was very much needed to set up Tim’s background and his state of mind when everything hits the fan.

Simply put, I really enjoyed this book. It was more of a thriller than horror but it does play on those elements in terms of the graphic details regarding the treatment of the kids and the shear evilness coming from the adult figures. Pick up the book if you love a quick and suspenseful read, I can guarantee you will get attached to the kids and it keeps you wanting more all the way up to the end.

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5. If you like Strangers Things and IT, then you should enjoy this, it’s definitely one of my favorites from King.

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