Book Review

The Institute by Stephen King | Book Review

The Institute
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 561
Horror | Thriller | Science Fiction |
Published: September 10th 2019
Publisher: Scribner

Buy the Book (affiliate links): Amazon UK

Goodreads Synopsis

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.

My Review

Trigger Warnings: Anxiety, Bodily Harm, Child Abuse, Depression, Emotional Abuse, Death, Murder, Physical Abuse, PTSD, Removal of Body Parts, Seizures, Suicide, Suicidal Intentions

What I Liked

As The Institute is my first Stephen King book, I didn’t really know what to expect. I have watched some of the film adaptations and yeah, they did scare me. So, I was a bit sceptical about starting it, I like my sleep and I didn’t want to be kept up by ghosties. However! It ended up being more eerie and chilling than scary, but you can’t stop reading because too much is happening. The characters in this book are so unique and really carry the story. Although we are reading from the children’s POV, the conversations and decisions they make really gave me the impression they were a lot older. I definitely connected with the characters more and I rooted for them throughout. Apart from a slow beginning, the story is intense, gripping and entertaining. There wasn’t a lot I didn’t like!

The Story

I must admit, I was a bit confused when I started reading this. Especially when Tim Jamieson is introduced first, I actually had to check I was reading the right book. I just didn’t understand why the book opened with this man. Nevertheless, it was super intriguing to see how his character fit in with the rest of the story.

We are quickly introduced to the main character, Luke. An extraordinary, intelligent 12-year-old boy who has the superpower of telekinesis. The Institute is an awful, inhumane place that steals kids with ‘superpowers’. After Luke has been kidnapped, I was instantly interested in the story a lot more.

As horrible as is it reading and visualising all of the tests these kids have to go through, I was still very captivated and had to keep reading. It can be quite disturbing I actually shuddered at some parts. But I still wanted to know every detail of how this institute is run. Why they are stealing kids and why they are giving them ‘shots for dots’!

Now, I’m not going to spoil anything for you because this is a book you have to read to get the full effects of what is happening. One thing I did love is King’s writing towards the end. There were multiple POV swaps making the story very intense but still easy to follow. It’s like watching a film with the tempo of a song getting faster the more action was happening. I could see what all the characters were doing at the same point in time. It was fascinating as I’ve never read a book that has done that before.

The Characters

Once we get into the institute and meet the various unlucky children, I could feel my heart break for them. I wanted to jump in and save them all from that nightmare, instead we see them slowly start to give up. It’s very hard not to get attached to all the characters but there were a few that made the book for me.

Firstly, Luke is such an amazing, intelligent, confident child and I loved seeing how quickly he got along with the other kids, made friendships with them and worked together to try and get out of that hellhole. I was so curious about his ‘superpower’ and I’m glad we get to see him gradually uncover it.

Avery. Sweet little Avester. He is by far my favourite character. I immediately loved him and I loved him even more as we got to know his character. Although he is scared, he still tries his best to help and cheer the other children up. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking for me to see him stuck there.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, the chilling atmosphere, intense action and graphic violence were so gripping I couldn’t tear my eyes away. I think I need some new fingernails as well because mine are all gone after reading this. I would definitely recommend this book if you like thrillers. Don’t be put iff by the size though because once you get into it, it’s easy to keep reading. I’m so glad this was my first Stephen King novel, I feel like it was a great one to ease myself in with and I’m looking forward to reading a lot more!

Rating: 4.5/5

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Manchester blogger with a passion for reading, writing and travelling. I always have a book or a cup of tea in my hand.


28 March 2021 at 8:38 am

This one sounds so good! I borrowed it from the library but I’ve not got around to picking it up yet. So good to see such a great review for it and hopefully ill be able to make time for it soon 🙂

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