The Institute by Stephen King

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 10/4/19-10/8/19

A week and a half ago, I was in the car with my dad to go get groceries (I know, cool story bro). My dad is also an Audible addict (put that on a shirt!), so I was forced to listen to this book. A few days later, he comes home and tells me that I need to read this book, and I was hesitant. I read Under the Dome a couple of years ago, and I was completely unimpressed with the ending. Trusting that my father, who had to listen to my complaints the first time and wouldn’t do me dirty this time around, I purchased the book, and ultimately the audiobook thanks to my complete lack of self-control.

Okay, so we got this dude, named Tim Jamieson. He was a cop in Sarasota, until he fired a gun in a mall in an effort to stop a fight. No one was killed, but a bystander was injured, effectively ending his career there. He planned to go up to New York to do security work, but he ended up losing his seat on his flight, causing him to begin hitchhiking north. He meets a woman who gets him to DuPray, South Carolina, a hole-in-the-wall town in the southern part of the state. While there Tim gets a job as a night knocker with the police force.

Then we got this kid named Luke Ellis. Luke is a genius, with the opportunity to do a double enrollment at Harvard and Emerson at the age of 12. He had the habit of accidentally knocking empty pizza platters to the ground or turning pages without touching anything. These things did not go unnoticed, and one day a group came and kidnapped him, killing his parents in the process. Luke wakes up in a room that is like his room, but isn’t.

He leaves his room and finds other kids there. One of those kids is named Kalisha. Kalisha helped Luke meet the other kids, Nick, George, and Iris. They informed him that he was in the Institute, a facility in Maine that was testing kids who were TK (telekinetic) or TP (telepathic). They often give “shots for dots”. meaning that they give you shots that are both supposed to help see dots and suppress them. Those dots help build the TP/TK power. They also use an immersion tank, which is supposed to bring you close to death so you see more dots. Luke also meets Maureen, the housekeeper in charge of the kids in Front Half. When a kid is done testing in Front Half, they move to Back Half, where they are never seen from again.

Luke learns that Maureen is in need of financial help, so he begins researching ways of helping her. Since Luke continued to provide help for her, Maureen began to look at him as a son. She became very close to him and worked on finding ways to help him, even eventually calling him son.

A few days (weeks?) after Luke came to the Institute, a 10-year-old boy named Avery was brought there. He was extremely TP, and he could have full conversations with people in his mind. He had the mindset of a 6-year-old, and often wet himself and had to sleep with someone else in the bed. Kalisha took him under her wing, and soon Luke was also close to Avery.

When Kalisha was taken to Back Half, Luke took over for Kalisha with Avery. Luke was forced to do the Immersion Tank and his TP and TK powers became a lot stronger. With that information, and his ability to hide that from the people in charge, Luke begins to plan ways of escaping the Institute, using Avery as a sounding board and conspirator. Maureen provided an escape plan through Avery, and Luke was able to escape. As a distraction, Maureen killed herself in one of the kid’s rooms.

When they learn that Avery knew of Luke’s escape, he was forced to undergo the Immersion Tank. That process only honed in on his powers and gave him a resilience against the Institute. Avery was then taken to Back Half, where he realized that the more people they could get connected, the stronger everyone’s powers become. The Institute was using this information to kill terrorists, but Avery wanted to use this information to destroy the Institute from the inside.

Luke escapes down a river, which eventually led to a shore by railroad tracks. Luke was able to get inside a boxcar, which took him to Massachusetts, Virginia, and eventually DuPray. Luke meets Tim Jamieson, and using a flash drive containing a video from Maureen, he is able to convince him of the Institute. While in DuPray, an extraction team was called in to capture and return Luke to the Institute in Maine. That mission ultimately failed, but Luke wanted to find a way to save his friends in Maine, so he began making his chess moves to make that possible.

Okay, so I think that the book as a whole was extremely interesting and complex. At a whopping 557 pages, I was slightly disappointed that I was 100 pages in before we even met Luke Ellis. It seemed like there was way to much backstory on Tim Jamieson, but I also recognize that King was trying to set the story around its hero.

As for the story surrounding the Institute, I found the different areas slightly confusing, and I didn’t fully understand what they were saying about certain things until the last 100 or so pages (which probably was the intended effect). I did think that there could have been more focus on the workings of Back Half, but I think overall King did a good job of both describing the horrors and the power of the Institute.

I will say that I probably wouldn’t have gotten into this book if I hadn’t listened to the beginning on Audible. Once I got into Luke’s story, the book was a lot easier to get into, but Tim’s initial backstory would have deterred me from continuing with the book. With all that being said, I will ultimately give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

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