'The Institute' Book Review

Updated: Jan 28

Happy Monday! What are your plans for today? How about a small book review to start your day? Well, you're in luck! Today's review is Stephen King's 'The Institute'.


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.

(From Goodreads - Link)


I've just finished The Institute and I have very mixed opinions on it. Who knew it was possible to want to both DNF a book yet also keep reading? This review was supposed to be published a couple of weeks ago for Halloween; as a spooky horror read. Yet thanks to catching the delightful(!) common cold, my plans were delayed slightly. A new Stephen King book released around Halloween sounded perfect for this time of year!

Set around Maine, the story follows Luke Ellis who is kidnapped by the employees of top-secret base 'The Institute'. Once he's arrived there, he is tested and tortured along with the other children to test the limits of his telekinesis. Knowing that as each day passes and the closer his transfer to 'Back Half' comes, Luke begins to plan his escape...

I did like some elements of the book, I found it to be quite creative (as usual with King's work) and the plot unique. It was structured well, to be honest I did find the beginning slow and boring yet it gradually improved once Luke was introduced. There were times however when I felt the book wasn't going anywhere and did feel to be waiting between 'events', which did make me consider DNF-ing the book. Admittedly, I did predict the ending yet still found it to be gripping regardless.

The characterisation was good, there was quite a lot of them but they all offered something different and a new take on the situation. I thought the characters were written realistically, except perhaps Luke's character was a little too intelligent for his age. It's another difficult one to review, but if you like escape/adventure books with a little of mystery on the side then this one may be for you! Yet, as to be expected with King(!), there are some parts that could be distressing - more in the trigger warning below.

While I did like the book, I wouldn't read it again and therefore rate it 3 out of 5 stars (sorry!). I'm usually a big fan of King's work but I just didn't feel any sort of connection with this book and was close to DNF-ing on many occasions. Trigger warning for dead children, suicide, kidnapping, murder, shooting and strong language.

Have you read 'The Institute'? What did you think?

Take care,

Sophie x

'The Institute' - Stephen King

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