Review: Joyland


By Stephen King
(Hard Case Crime, Paperback, 9781781162644, June 3, 2013, 288pp.)

The Short of It:

Campy amusement park goodness.

The Rest of It:

Devin Jones, recovering from the heartache of losing his girl, takes a job at an amusement park during the summer of ’73. The park in question has lost its shine. It’s lure is the fact that it’s old fashioned fun with your typical rides and carnival attractions but each years it’s a struggle to keep things going. You have your long time employees such as Lane Hardy and Madame Fortuna, but the lifeblood of the park seems to be the kids that work there over the summer.

Devin finds himself a room to rent and meets Erin and Tom. Both students trying to make a little money over the summer. They become his family while at Joyland along with a host of regulars to keep things interesting. But what interests them the most is the murder that took place at the park years ago. Linda Gray and her boyfriend visited Horror House together but only one of them came out alive. Rumor has it that Linda’s throat was cut by her boyfriend and her body was thrown aside for employees to find later. The case was never solved but the repeated ghost sightings of Linda herself pique the interest of Devin and his friends. Enough for them to want to investigate the murder themselves.

Fans of Stephen King know that he writes a lot more than horror and this is one of those times. I think it’s safe to say that Joyland has been marketed as crime fiction and it is that, but only in the very loosest sense of the term. It’s not much of a “who-done-it” as there isn’t a whole lot of suspense to keep the story going. In fact, much of it felt a little lazy to me… lazy in the way a long, hot summer can be. The relaxed nature of the story seemed to take center stage, not so much the anticipation of solving the crime itself. Joyland was more of an experience, than a story to me but that’s not a bad thing. King has a way with setting the stage and the stage he set was welcoming to me in some odd way.

When the story meandered a bit and a young boy with a serious illness was introduced and ended up playing a central character in the story itself, I knew then that the murder was really just a backdrop for the summer that Devin needed to experience in order to move on to the next stage of his life. Truthfully, I didn’t mind this but Joyland felt more like a novella than a novel which left me wanting a little bit more.

Calling this a ghost story is a real stretch so if you pick it up for that alone, you might be disappointed. BUT, big but, it’s classic King. He knows how to paint a scene and he knows his characters. I love the little catch phrases he uses repeatedly throughout his books, too. It gives you a sense of existing within whatever construct he’s created on the page and you are successfully taken out of his world, and put into his world, often front and center.

Overall, it was an entertaining, fun read. I loved the amusement park lingo and the overall sense of place that King created but as crime fiction, there was little in the way of suspense and the resolution was rather anti-climactic. Not one of my faves but worth reading nonetheless. Especially for readers who have shied away from King before. This would be a good book to read as an introduction to King’s work.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

30 thoughts on “Review: Joyland”

  1. I am so glad you had fun with it…I know how much you love Stephen King! Are you watching Under The Dome?

    1. I have to watch Dome after the rest of the world does as it comes on at 10pm here. I plan to watch episode 2 tonight but so much of it is different from the book and it’s cheesy as hell. I may not watch unless it get better here pretty soon.

    1. I agree. He can tell one hell of a story, that’s for sure. He gets overshadowed by the horror tag. Many won’t try him for that reason. Because he’s known for horror.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I just started reading it yesterday, and I’ve already found myself wondering what Dev’s gonna encounter at Joyland. And when is the boy in the wheelchair going to make his entrance? Its definitely typical King and I love that about the book. I’m easily imagining “the fur”, the boarding house, and Dev. Definitely what I needed, reading-wise 🙂

  3. There is something about King that sucks me in. I love his style, it’s comfy to me 🙂 I hope to get to this one eventually.

    1. I totally agree with you. His writing is like stepping into my favorite pair of shoes. I love him. Even his worst book is better than most I’ve read.

  4. Actually, I could be talked into a novella of King. Sometimes his books are just TOO LONG! Even when I’m enjoying it so very much. I’ve sent you a postcard…

  5. Looking forward to reading this one. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King (The Stand, easily one of the best books i’ve ever read) and will read anything he puts out.

  6. I was keeping my eyes peeled for your thoughts in this novel. I love the cover and all, but I hear King might be losing some of his zing in recent years. It seems like this one isn’t as … potent as his other work. Still very curious about Joyland, though, regardless. And Doctor Sleep!

    1. Me too. I love old amusement parks with those classic rides that we remember from our childhood. The Tilt N Whirl, Hammer Head, etc. LOL. And old carousels… love.

    1. And the older amusement parks, as cheesy as they tend to be, still manage to capture my interest. Not sure I’d ride the rides but I love to just be around them.

  7. I have been curious about Joyland. I am reading my second Stephen King novel now. I read The Stand and am currently reading Under the Dome. I will have to give Joyland a go next. Thank you for your review.

  8. I haven’t read King before and while reading your review, I was thinking that this will be a good one to start with. It does sound very atmospheric and it’s hard to not enjoy such books.

    1. I think every reader should try King at least once. He is a really good storyteller even if you “think” his usual genres are not for you.

  9. As I’m finishing up Under The Dome, I’m definitely determined to get back to reading King but I’m not sure this one’s the one for me. Luckily, he’s got a lot of work I still haven’t read!

  10. Great review! I agree that King has a talent of transporting you into another world. I also think that this book is perfect for a lazy summer read. But, I wish it wasn’t purported to be a crime fiction when that ghost story mystery took the back burner to Devin’s tale.

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