Book Review: Joyland

JOYLAND | Stephen King
06.04.2013 | Titan Books
Rating: 4/5 stars

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Devin Jones is a New Hampshire college student looking for summer employment. He has everything mapped out. He’ll find a job near his girlfriend and they’ll spend the summer together. The fantasy of Devin’s perfect summer comes crashing down when Wendy tells him that she plans to work in Boston with a friend. Heartbroken and lost, Devin stumbles upon an opportunity to work in North Carolina as a carny at the amusement park called Joyland.

Devin’s summer at Joyland is one that will live with him forever. It will be the summer of making lifelong friends, dealing with heartache, understanding the fate of a dying child, learning what “wearing the fur” means, and solving the murder of Linda Grey, who was killed in the park years ago. The summer of 1973 is one that will change Devin forever.

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When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.

Prior to this year and starting my King journey, JOYLAND was the only experience I had with Stephen King. Let me start by saying that JOYLAND is not the stereotypical King book that he has become known for. JOYLAND is not a horror book. This is a coming of age story about Devin Jones. Narrated by Devin himself, he takes the reader on a journey into the past, into the summer of 1973. The story is relatable, nostalgic, and mesmerizing. JOYLAND truly shows the depths and breadth of King’s writing.

Devin Jones serves as the ultimate guide into his past. The book begins with present-day Devin, who has reached the point in his life where old age is a reality and he has lost a dear friend. The loss of this particular friend launches Devin into the story of his time at Joyland. I don’t think there has ever been a more honest narrator than Devin. He truly has the ability to look back on his youth and appreciate his summer, but also call himself out on certain things, like constantly being hung up on Wendy. Devin is a genuine, honest, good person, which I think truly serves to captivate the reader.

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When you’re twenty-one, life is a roadmap. It’s only when you get to be twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect that you’ve been looking at the map upside down, and not until you’re forty are you entirely sure. By the time you’re sixty, take it from me, you’re fucking lost.

My favorite aspect to JOYLAND are the friendships that are formed. Devin builds lifelong friendships with two fellow college students who worked over the summer, Erin and Tom. Devin also creates bonds with other fellow carnies working at Joyland, some he wants to be close with and some he is forced to tolerate. The mixture of personalities is every bit as entertaining as you can imagine when you think of the types of “characters” often attracted to amusement parks. There’s the grumpy old carny who knows everything  and the fortune teller who has scary accurate predictions. While all of these friendships are genuine, it is Devin’s relationship with Annie and Mike Ross that truly shines in this book. This trio comes to form an intense connection that makes the reader’s heart overfilled with emotions. Without giving away parts of the plot, I will say that this friendship has it all! There are moments of joy, laughter, and sorrow. There is also a particularly lovely nod to the shine from THE SHINING involved in this friendship, which made my heart melt.

At the end of the day, JOYLAND is at its core a murder mystery. The ghost of Linda Grey is haunting the ride where she was murdered. Devin is instantly intrigued by the case and eventually becomes obsessed with finding out the truth. The case might be a bit predictable to some, but I was genuinely interested, even the second time giving this book a read.

JOYLAND is a book I would recommend to anyone who truly wants to check out Stephen King’s writing. Yes, there is some creep factor…what else would you expect? It is a book that is short and sweet. A book that will tug at your heart strings. A book that will make you glad you read it. At the end of there day, there’s something for everyone!

Love leaves scars.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Joyland

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