Author: Steven King
Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.
The shame about Stephen King is that his brilliance is often masked by his high sales potential, and that is where I thought Joyland lost. It appears that the Hard Case Crime brand hired King simply because of his sales potential, and not because of his craftiness with words. The “crime” in this novel was minuscule, when it was advertised as something much heftier, but the nostalgic literary fiction appeal is where King won me over. His brilliant way of evolving his characters and entangling them with one another astounded me, and I simply couldn’t read this book fast enough.
Those who are fond of King for his brilliant horror novels may not be as interested in Joyland, but this novel is an excellent introduction to King’s writing for those with weaker stomachs. There isn’t any ample horror appeal in this novel, apart from a slight paranormal occurrence, and King chose instead to focus on the early adult experience. He discussed how humans evolve through heart break and life changing events, and how a simple occurrence in someone’s life can change the complete course of their life span. Our main character, Devin, began as a young, heartbroken boy, but ended up being a strong, knowledgeable man. Having been in a position before where I felt that a boy was my entire life, and losing him, I know how it feels to question everything in your life and reinvent yourself. It is not a pleasant experience, but for some people it is essential. I truly enjoyed King’s insight on first love and how some people have a huge impact on our lives, and I would love to read more books by him that are simply literary fiction, and not centered on horror or crime.
If you are interested in seeing some of King’s best work, I highly suggest Joyland; however, I do believe that the publisher and cover designer did a disservice to this novel by trying to make it into something it is not. It is not a high quality crime, nor a horror novel. Don’t let King’s legacy and sales record fool you. People tend to write him into the horror/crime author corner, when he is much more multi-faceted than that.
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