From Goodreads: Made into the acclaimed film Stand By Me, The Body is a mesmerizing tale of four young boys and their quest to find a dead body, never realizing how much death will affect their lives and their friendship.
I saw this movie when I was just a young tween, and let me tell you, I fell in love. I’m not sure if it was the allure of the characters and their “bad boy” image, or River Phoenix, but either way, I watched the movie nearly every day that summer, and have watched it at least once a year ever since. I don’t remember exactly when I realized the movie was based on a novella by Stephen King, but I do know that, even thought I vowed to find it and read it, I never did. I’ll blame that all on the fact that, at the time, the internet was new and I didn’t know about searches, etc. I did look through the college library in town, but I never found The Body and soon forgot about my dire need to read the story as new exciting things cropped into my life.
A few weeks ago, something triggered the memory that Stand by Me was originally a novella, and I began my search anew. Perhaps I’m just not tech savvy, but I still had a very hard time finding it. I searched Barnes and Nobel and Amazon, but neither site had the novella in stock for a reasonable price (over $30), and most of them were compact discs anyway—not what I was looking for. Dismayed, I figured that by this point it was out of print and I was out of luck. One of my searches, however, pulled up a novel called Different Seasons, and I was curious as to why. Fortunately for me, I looked into it and found that The Body is actually one of four novellas within the novel, and it was cheap enough. Yet, I decided to check my school library prior to purchase, especially since I only wanted to read The Body (King’s work is very heavy and I’m not a dire fan) and I’d finally found the actual title of the book it was in. I’m happy to say that I did find it, eventually, and read it, all these years after my initial inquiry.
I like the movie better. I know I’m biased, seeing as I’ve viewed the movie so often and fell in love with it automatically, while I’ve only read the novella once. Of course the novella is much more detailed and actually answered some of my questions, like why Teddy’s dad held his ear to the stove (it was actually both ears), and what happened between the older gang and the younger gang when they came back from their trek to find the body. Yet, I think the director of Stand by Me did a superb job capturing the novella on screen and he held true to the important main aspects of the novella. For instance, the dialogue is straight from the novella, and it think the movie, overall, is a superb retelling—they don’t make movies like this anymore, staying true to the novel.
While there are a few discrepancies, such as it the novella taking place in Maine, but in the movie it’s in Oregon, there really weren’t that many changes, until the very end. Stand by Me, of course, changes the ending around, but it’s still nothing too drastic. The characters in the confrontation with the gun are switched—but I can’t decide which version is better, and, based on this switch, the focus of the entire novella/movie changes from one character to the next. Whereas the novella seems to have a focus on Chris Chambers, the movie changes it to Gordie LaChance—but I like both versions, so I can’t decide which is better. Another big change is the ultimate end of Gordie’s three friends, Vern, Teddy, and Chris. I’m not going to ruin it for you, but if you’ve seen the movie, just rest assured that Vern and Teddy did not end up the way the narrator says they did in the movie (and I like the book’s version of this one better). While Chris’s ending is very similar, the age range is wrong, adding a sense of melancholy to this coming of age novella/movie—which I think is what really makes it superb.
Truth be told, King’s style is really hard for me to read—I think it’s the small print. He does go off topic on occasion in the novella, and I’m glad they cut that out of the movie, because Gordie randomly launches into a very weird story about sex and hatred, and I was confused during those two chapters and I still don’t see their connection to the novella as a whole. Yet, aside from that, the novella was great, and I have to give it five stars because it’s really a wonderful story—and of course the movie gets five stars… there’s no question about that! I guess I recommend reading the novella if you’re an avid reader or want the true story concerning the end, but otherwise, you can get nearly the whole wonderful story from just watching the movie.