Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Hard Case Crime
Release Date: June 4 2013
I’ll start this off by admitting that before Joyland I had never read anything by Stephen King — which is really strange because I love horror fiction. I love the feeling of terror tingling up my spine, of my hairs standing up on end, of flipping the pages in anticipation for what’s going to happen.
With that said, I was honestly a little disappointed that this wasn’t a fully-fledged horror story, but that’s my own fault. I rushed through the book expecting for something horrific to happen until I was easily let down by my friend who told me it wasn’t a horror, but rather a mystery novel. I felt pretty foolish and I can’t just be like “Dammit, Stephen King! You’re only supposed to write horror fic!” because that’s rude and it was my own fault for just assuming everything he wrote was horror, so this won’t impact my review of the novel at all. I just thought I’d let you know that if you buy this book, know that it’s a mystery novel.
Despite this self-inflicted disappointment, I rather enjoyed King’s novel, and it is a story of heartbreak and crime, as what begins as an escape from his breakup, becomes the eerie mystery surrounding the murder that took place in Joyland’s haunted mansion ride. Although, this mystery drives Jones to stay in North Carolina for the rest of the year, the novel’s main focus is on King’s characters. It is a story about people, and with Devin, the reader is able to experience his life as he remembers it in his nostalgic old age.
King put a lot of work into making the amusement park setting of his novel realistic and true to the carnivals of the seventies. The novel is filled with these little tidbits on carny dialect and manner, and you discover this new world through the Jones’ eyes, so it never feels like you’re being force-fed information and facts about carny life. King writes with such clarity, and the novel reaches poetic at times (fitting because Devin Jones is a writer), and insight into the darkest and most mysterious aspects of life. As a novel that focuses on the stories of the people, King does a fantastic job at characterization and developing his characters — every character has their own important development, no matter how big or small of a role they play in the novel — they felt like real people, as though they are friends I have known them my whole life.
Overall, Joyland was a quick and entertaining read. I finished over the course of two days when I should have been studying for exams, but it provided the much needed escape that I needed from my real life, and I seriously considered running away to work on a carnival for a whole 10 minutes. Ultimately, it wasn’t the novel I was expecting, and although it wasn’t the horror fiction he is known for, I could not have asked for a better story to be my first King novel.