Review: The Institute by Stephen King

Rating: ★★★★☆-


From #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephen King, the most riveting and unforgettable story of kids confronting evil since It—publishing just as the second part of It, the movie, lands in theaters.

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.


When it comes to Stephen King, you always know that you are in for a treat. Whether it is simply the prose, the story, or the characters themselves, there is always something there for the casual or even die-hard reader to enjoy. Though there are several readers out there who I feel only read King’s works and sprinkle in random books here and there, I have read very few in his collection and the only ones I have read are his more recent releases (the Bill Hodges Trilogy, The Outsider, and Revival to name a few). It is sort of sad that I have read more Joe Hill than King, but it all comes down to publication dates and the timing in which I began voraciously reading.

The Institute, while by far not King’s best work, is a very enjoyable novel with some hard-hitting and gut-wrenching material. It feels like Eleven’s story from Stranger Things meets Josh Malerman’s Inspection. Having not read Firestarter, I can’t get 100% on board with the comparison, but the synopsis alone does show close similarities. As far as IT goes, I don’t believe the friendships made here are as tightly bonded as The Losers Club, but being a kid-centric and driven novel does make the comparison valid.

I felt that The Institute was a well-paced novel and gives the reader a consistent want to turn to the next page. It has a plethora of chapters that are relatively short, so there are plenty of places to set the book aside should you need to get on your with your day. It is a decent length at 561 pages, but you won’t find yourself slogging through at any point in time.

This is a thriller through and through with obvious sci-fi elements (telekinesis and telepathy) and features some very enjoyable characters that I believe any reader will be able to relate to. It does have cringe-worthy moments, like all King books throughout time, when it comes to some of the dialogue and situtations; but in all honesty, it is easy to look past them. It is also interesting how there are no real black/white areas when it comes to the good vs evil dynamic, so getting to the final reveal was a vested interest.

All in all, if you are a King fan, you probably already purchased The Institute or at least plan on it at some point in the near future. If you aren’t a big King fan but want to give a work of his a try, you can’t really go wrong here.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Great review. I think putting a kid or kids in a book always makes it scarier!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David W says:

      Thanks! Oh yes, definitely. Fear of the unknown in a child is double that of an adult.


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