I recently dove into Stephen King's work by starting with his first published novel, Carrie. Released in 1974, it's a horror book about a high school girl with telekinetic powers (Carrie) who is consistently made fun of and bullied at school. A popular classmate who has joined in bullying her in the past feels bad for her and asks her good-looking boyfriend to take Carrie to the senior prom; there's an incident there, planned by a ruthless classmate, and Carrie winds up destroying most of the small town and killing a lot of people, including her mother, who is very much a religious nut.
Carrie isn't a drop-dead horrifying book, but it is pretty gnarly overall. The writing talent is obvious, front-and-center, even in King's first published novel. He uses multiple narrative voices, telling the story as a series of clippings from various (fictional, obvs) sources. There are clippings of books about the prom night where Carrie destroys the town, written by survivors and by people who have studied Carrie's telekinesis; there are wire reports and newspaper stories about the incident; there are transcripts of Congressional hearings about the matter; and there is a third-person narrator as well. This depersonalizes the events of the story at times, but the matter-of-fact tone inherent in some of these voices also makes it seem more horrifying because it seems more realistic.
King paints an extremely vivid portrait of Carrie, and describes the novel's gruesome first scene, which unleashes her telekinetic powers, in striking detail. I won't even mention what it is, and I wouldn't recommend Googling it if you don't know and you're considering picking the book up. Moving throughout the story, King doesn't pull any punches when writing horrifying or deadly scenes. It's really easy to see why the book was almost immediately turned into a movie by the same name -- the movie came out in 1976, only two years after the book's original release, and is a widely acclaimed horror flick. I think I'll watch it pretty soon.
Throughout Carrie I found myself sympathizing with multiple characters. I think it's easy and natural to sympathize with the title character, who completely loses control of her powers during her massive spree of death and destruction at the end of the book. But I also sympathized with Sue Snell, the classmate who had bullied Carrie in the past and asked her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom. King wrote this character in a pretty stark light, making her seem closely entangled with Carrie during the prom night, and Snell's development is almost as interesting as Carrie's throughout the story.
I plan to read many more Stephen King novels moving forward. I already picked up 'Salem's Lot and The Shining, King's second and third works, which are considerably longer than Carrie. The fact that Carrie is such a digestible length makes it a great starting-off point for getting into King's work, and my plan at the moment is to proceed through his discography in order of release. He's got 55 books right now but by the time I catch up to his current output, he'll probably have released like 15 more.
Carrie is available as an IRL book and an e-book on Amazon. It's also available on Audible; if you click this link, you can get a free trial of Audible that includes two free audiobooks. Even if you cancel your trial, you'll get to keep these two books. Also: clicking on any of the Amazon links in this post, and purchasing something from them, provides a small percentage kickback to the author of the blog you just read.