My rating: 5/5
Goodreads ratings: 4.11
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9014.The_Long_Walk?from_search=true
Heartache and a sense of grim hopelessness, that’s what I feel as I remember this dark and twisted coming of age story.
Summary: Every year, a 100 teenage boys volunteer to partake in the Long Walk. A race in which the last one standing out of a 100 wins the price of a lifetime. However, if a competitor gets three warnings, he’ll be eliminated, immediately and gruesomely.
“It took me a while to figure it out, but it was faster after I got around that mental block. Walk or die, that’s the moral of this story. Simple as that.”
This race is set in a dystopian United States. On the other hand, the setting is merely a tool for the author to explore the character’s motivations towards participating in this event.
In contrast with the Hunger Games, this book doesn’t focus on overthrowing a ruthless society or surviving adversity. It focuses on the characters‘ personalities, their dynamic and their mental struggles.
There is a lot of stream of consciousness and psychological play throughout their journey. Therefore, it’s more a mental race than a physical one.
“It’s not survival of the physical fittest, that where I went wrong when I let myself into this. If it was, I’d have a fair chance. But there are weak men who can lift cars if their wives are pinned underneath. The brain Garraty… It isn’t man or God. It’s something… in the brain.”
As I read the book, it was physically painful to realize a character I liked was close to buying his ticket. It was heart breaking seeing the contrast between the hopefulness in their minds against the horrible reality of their situation.
Moreover, it was excruciating to know that only one of these boys would be left alive. No matter how strong the bonds they made were or how much we wanted them to be alright. Still, 99 contestants would be dead at the end.
Even though we know from the beginning that only one can win, King makes sure you go in denial. Because you’ll want Garraty to win, but you’ll also want McVries to live and you’ll want Stebbins to hold on because you’ll want to know him a little more.
You’ll go in denial because you’ll know them so well and you’ll want all of them to be alright and to live a long and wonderful life.
Only to be left feeling hollow and sad.
Overall, this is an existentialist book that questions life as well as death and explores people’s complex nature and what makes humans tick.
“Well, the way I see it, you don’t know why you’re walking either. It’s the same thing. You’re going now because you’re afraid, but that’s not enough. That wears out… And when it wears out I guess you’ll buy a ticket like all the rest, Ray.”
It was so well written and so well developed, that at the end I felt numb. I couldn’t believe what I had just read and couldn’t believe it was already over.
No, they shouldn’t have died the way they did. No, everything was too unfair. However, I think that was the point. To make you care and to make you feel.
To summarize, this book is not for everybody. If you are sensible to strong and controversial topics such as death and sex or to very graphic and violent descriptions, then I don’t recommend it, but if you are in for a dark coming of age story that explores the darkest parts of the human mind then this book is for you.