I first read Christine sometime in 2010, having bought it at the train station on my way to visit home. My boyfriend and I recently watched the movie on Netflix, and since so many things were different/wrong (although anything is better than Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining…but don’t get me started on that one), it made me want to read the book again.
Christine is the story of Arnie Cunningham and his ’58 Plymouth Fury, Christine. Arnie, a painfully awkward ugly duckling who has never realized the destiny of that proverbial swan, has only one true friend, Dennis Guilder. But after purchasing Christine from Roland D. LeBay, an old, retired curmudgeon who lives on the outskirts of Libertyville, PA, Arnie and Dennis begin to grow apart. Arnie has been spending almost all his spare time restoring Christine, and seems to have time for no one and nothing else…until Leigh Cabot comes along. But Christine is his first love, and she won’t let anyone—anyone—come between them.
What I really like about this book is that there’s a steady, low level of tension throughout. It’s like a good horror movie where you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time, just knowing that there’s going to be something around the next corner…but when there isn’t, there’s no relief, just more tension. In Christine, this tension comes mainly from the fact that the first and third sections of the book are narrated in the first person by Dennis, who often makes offhand comments like “if things hadn’t gotten so scary so quickly.” From the first page, you’re thinking “Okay, this is creepy…” and it just keeps getting creepier until finally you’re like “OH MY GOD THIS CAR KILLS PEOPLE.” Exactly like that.
(Note: I apologize if that’s giving away something there—I’m going on the assumption that most people know the basic plot of Christine. I promise it’s not a big spoiler.)
Something else that’s wonderful about this book is that the characters are very real. (I know, I know, I say this about a lot of books.) But here it’s especially true. Dennis is the ultimate high school senior, concerned mostly about girls and football; his younger sister, Ellie, is the epitome of a flighty fourteen-year-old girl; Arnie and his parents perfectly portray the troubles many families go through when the beloved only chick is about to leave the nest. The only person who seems a little less than believable is Leigh; she almost seems too perfect. But the rest of them…the book could be a true story. Except for the fact that the car kills people, that is.
At its most simple, Christine is a love triangle between a boy, his car, and his girlfriend. At its most complex, it’s a story of the descent into obsession—and the transformations, good and bad, that can result from it. In short, it’s great.