Joyland by Stephen King
What It’s About:
It’s 1973 and heartbroken college student Devin Jones takes a summer job at an amusement park called Joyland. What should just be a simple summer job brings Devin lifelong friends, heartache, and some of his best & also most horrific life experiences. These experiences make him an adult but will also forever haunt him as much as the ghost of the girl named Linda Gray, who four years previously was mysteriously murdered in and now haunts Joyland’s Horror House ride.
I adore Stephen King. I don’t read as much as I’d like but I always make time for King’s books. Love him or hate him (does anyone hate him?), I think he’s an amazing writer and I find myself “lost” in the world of his books as I read them far more than I do with other authors. I suppose he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because of the whole horror thing but I’ve always preferred the supernatural and horror genres when it comes to books so he writes the sort of stories I love. And what a great storyteller! I’d love to see inside that crazy-ass brain of his.
Joyland is quite a simple and pretty straightforward sort of pulp murder mystery. This appears to be King’s second book published by “Hard Case Crime”. The Colorado Kid was the first, which I’ve not read but should as I love the Haven TV show that’s (loosely?) based on it.
I won’t go into the story much as it would ruin it for anyone who reads it. Yes, the Linda Gray ghost & murder mystery is a fairly big part of the story but there’s much more to the book than just that. I’ve also always been fascinated by books with a funfair type setting & the whole carny thing so we get a great big dose of that in this book.
It takes a while for the story to really get going and the best part of the story & a couple of the most important characters (other than Devin) don’t make much of an appearance until over halfway through the book. But King spends a lot of time developing the character of Devin and I really enjoyed that. My favorite King books are the ones in which he focuses more on character development and giving us characters that we really like & care about. He doesn’t always do this and those in which he doesn’t give us characters that are very memorable or gives us ones that are pretty much all downright hateful (Under The Dome) are the books that end up being my least favorite.
Speaking of Under The Dome, that book definitely had a better overall concept than Joyland but then was filled with main characters I didn’t really care about (and can barely even remember as I type this) and such over the top “baddies” that it was one of the more difficult King books to work through despite the great story idea and really wanting to know how it would end. I loved the characters in Joyland, especially Devin & the two important characters he meets later in the book (I won’t go into that as they’re only hinted at on the back cover) but also the other college friends he makes at Joyland and all the regular Joyland employees. For a short book, I felt like I knew more about even the most minor characters in Joyland than I did about anyone in Under The Dome.
The story in Joyland isn’t going to change the world – it’s simple and pretty predictable but I had fun with it & thoroughly enjoyed the book thanks to the setting & especially the great cast of characters. They’re still quite black & white but that works in this “Hard Case Crime” style of book. When you buy a book as thick as Under The Dome, you expect a bit more.
Note: Sorry to compare it to Under The Dome so much but it’s on my mind as the series is finally starting in the UK (this coming Monday night on Channel Five). Yay! As disappointing as the book was, I still enjoy watching ALL things Stephen King-related and never miss them even though I know some adaptations have been truly horrible.
Joyland was a great read. It’s pretty “light” for a King novel but that doesn’t make it any less worthy than his more lengthy books. It’s quite a straightforward crime thriller but with just enough of the weird & supernatural to keep King fans happy. But the thing that works best is a great set of well-developed characters, even down to the minor ones. We care about the people in Joyland and the last half of the book, a big part of which has nothing to do with Linda Gray’s murder, is surprisingly moving and reminds us how great King’s books can be when he focuses on making us understand and truly like the people in his fictional worlds.
My Rating: 4/5
This is my favorite book I’ve read this year, closely followed by The Perks Of Being A Wallflower then the rest below. I haven’t managed to read a lot so far but they’ve all been pretty good:
Wool by Hugh Howey Review
Wonder by RJ Palacio Review
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green Review
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Review