Different Seasons

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Different Seasons Book Poster Image
Four classic King tales, pretty raw stuff in places.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

King is a compelling storyteller, and because of this his work turns up on school reading lists. The stories in this collection offer a good opportunity to study his craft, as well as pick up assorted local color and historic detail, but the material can be a minefield, from constant profanity and toxic family relationships to explicit sex and violence.

Positive Messages

While readers tend to gravitate to King to be scared, grossed out, or entertained rather than inspired, his work also stays true to a clear moral compass, and the positive characters behave with their own integrity. Keeping faith with friends and family matters. Making something of your life matters. Doing the right thing, even when it's easier not to, matters; it sometimes confers heroic stature on the person who does it, and sometimes restores order by righting a longstanding wrong.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Villains, creeps, and monsters abound in these pages. But also in evidence, and something of a recurring motif in King, are quiet, often misfit protoganists who, in the face of overwhelming adversity and injustice, hold steady, maintain their integrity, and achieve feats of heroism from the minor to the otherworldly -- sometimes, gratifyingly, to the detriment of the villains, creeps, and monsters.

Violence

Apt Pupil in particular is so replete with vivid atrocities (rape, stabbing, shooting, burning, dismemberment) against everyone from neighborhood kitties to Holocaust victims as to merit the strongest of parental advisories. This being Stephen King, it's fair to expect gore galore at any given moment, whether it takes the form of car-wreck carnage, prison mayhem, or corpses in the countryside, though its treatment is appropriate to its context in the story.

Sex

On the dark side: prison rape. Concentration camp rape, with foreign objects. Cheating spouses. Confused, sometimes hostile teenage sex. On the not-so-dark side: sex between happily married spouses, pregnant mom showing extraordinary devotion to her child.

Language

"F--k," "s--t," many swear words on many occasions. This is usually consistent with the character who's speaking -- a convict, a soldier, an adolescent boy -- rather than simply gratuitous, as King is a skilled craftsman, but expect foul language to crop up early and often.

Consumerism

Various consumer products of the 20th century American landscape, from Coca-Cola and Chicken Delight to makes and models of cars, figure in the stories as part of the scene-setting, but are rarely of more than incidental interest to the characters. Posters of a succession of famous sexy ladies play a key role in Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and smoking by adult characters occurs regularly; kid characters sometimes drink, smoke, and use drugs, from casual experimentation to serious abuse. In the latter case, while the kids ultimately pay a heavy price, they often wreak severe mayhem first.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book is intended for adult readers, not kids. However, three of its four novellas became big movies (The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, and Apt Pupil), and because King's storytelling is often irresistible even to reluctant readers, his work is often found on high school and even middle school library shelves, so it's a good bet your kids may gravitate to this one. Be aware that sex, violence, and foul language abound, and the concentration-camp rape scene (for example) in the very dark Apt Pupil is seriously disturbing.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2 year old Written bygerbowski December 13, 2012

A good collection of four stories

These four novellas are some of Stephen Kings best early work. If you are a fan of either his books or the movies that have been made from them, you will proba... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old June 14, 2013

Amazing But Touches Some Heavy Topics.

I have read this book, and wow, Stephan King is amazing. This has very mature topics though. If your kids read this book, talk to them about the constant cursin... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byAl_Piccone July 23, 2015

Disappointingly Graphic and Vulgar

I have wanted to read a Stephen King book ever since I was around ten, and my grandfather told me how terrified he was when he read "The Tommyknockers.... Continue reading

What's the story?

DIFFERENT SEASONS is a collection of four Stephen King novellas: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, a wrongfully convicted man's quest for justice; The Body, in which four 12-year-old boys set off in search of another boy's corpse in the countryside; Apt Pupil, the story of an all-American boy's descent into evil with the help of a Nazi war criminal; and The Breathing Method, a postwar tale of a remarkable birth with supernatural overtones.

Is it any good?

There's great stuff here, but it calls for judgment. King is so successful because he's a very good storyteller. He's also somewhat noted for a tendency to write long (or indeed multi-volume) books, so these four tales are a good introduction to his work. Apt Pupil is so dark that parents should really read it before their kids do (and Shawshank has its very intense moments), while The Body (adapted for the 1986 film Stand By Me) has become a beloved, if gritty, coming-of-age tale. As King says in the afterword, he doesn't mind being typecast in the horror genre a bit, and if horror is not your thing, you may find the underlying creepiness and frequent outright violence too much. But there are also wonderful, almost laugh-out-loud moments of virtue triumphant that might be worth it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Stephen King's stories are so popular. Is it fun to be scared, or is there something else going on?

  • If you were the victim of a big injustice, like being sent to prison for a crime you didn't commit, how would you deal with it? How would you try to make things right and not go crazy in the meantime?

  • One of the important conversations in The Body is about how important your friends are, yet they can drag you down. How can friends be a positive or a negative force in your life?

  • How do the stories compare with the movie versions, if you've seen those?

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