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Okay, here's the thing: "brief and sparse plot summary" and "Stephen King's It" don't exactly go together. This book is hefty, weighing in at well over 1,000 pages. There are multiple timelines, a bunch of weird historical asides, and enough scares to make Alfred Hitchcock wince.
In essence: read this bad boy. A brief summary ain't going to do it justice. But we'll do our best.
Derry, Maine. In 1957, a little boy named George gets killed by a storm drain-dwelling psycho clown named Pennywise. His brother, Bill, is really scarred by this.
Flash forward to '85. Something in Derry is killing innocents again, and that something is wearing greasepaint and a clown suit. This prompts Mike to call his childhood buddies: Steve, Richie, Ben, Eddie, Beverly, and Bill. Yep: that’s the same Bill whose baby bro got killed decades earlier.
These adults all react strongly to this phone call. Six of them respond by upending their lives and going back to Derry. (Stan decides to end his life: returning to Derry is a pretty terrifying prospect.)
Through a combination of memory and flashback, it becomes clear what happened. In 1958, the killer clown, a.k.a. Pennywise, a.k.a. It, goes homicidal on Derry's youth population. It tries to kill all seven of what becomes known as the Losers Club (Mike, Stan, Bill, etc.) by manifesting as the things they fear the most.
Eddie, raised by a hypochondriac mom, fears disease, and so It becomes a leper. Mike almost had his eyes pecked out by a bird when he was a baby, so It sprouts some wings. You get the gist.
After being terrorized by both It and a local no-good bully named Henry Bowers, the Losers decide to track down It and stop It using an ancient Himalayan ritual. This is no easy feat, especially because a) It lives in the dark, twisting labyrinth of sewers under Derry, b) It has possessed Henry Bowers, turning him into a killer hell-bent on offing the Losers, and c) It can transform into everyone's worst nightmare.
But finally, after a lot of gore and spooky scaries, these kids vanquish It. Bonus: all the murders in town are pinned on Henry Bowers, so he goes off to the state prison for the criminally insane. Everyone lives happily ever after, and the killer clown is no more.
* Record scratch *
You forgot about that 1985 timeline, didn't you?
It has reared It's ugly head again, and the now-adult Losers band together to remember the ancient Himalayan ritual, do some extramarital affair-having, and kill It once and for all. Before this can happen, however, It terrorizes what's left of the Losers Club…and breaks Henry Bowers out of prison.
Ultimately, the Losers save the day. Henry is killed, It is vanquished, and Derry collapses in a major earthquake/sewer system flood. The Losers are struck by very specific amnesia, and go back to their adult lives with fading recollections of all It-related shenanigans.
It's the happiest ending possible in a book that revolves around a psychotic killer clown.