Nothing about this is the way I thought it was going to be. I really, really liked it.
I think the main reason I’m always so surprised when I enjoy Stephen King novels is that the very first book of his I ever read was Cell, which I didn’t like, and which I now know is considered to be one of his inferior offerings. This is an especially dumb mindset to have now as I’ve read quite a few since then and enjoyed all of them (The Green Mile, 11/22/63, The Eyes of the Dragon, to name a few). I think it might be time to adjust my expectations. From now on, I’m going into every SK novel I read ssuming it’s going to be my cheese.
Joyland is the second book King has published under the Hard Case Crime label, a publishing company built almost completely on delivering nostalgia to its readers. Combined with that fabulous cover, it’s no wonder I had expectations going in. And I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting: horrific things? Scary things? Lots of murder and blood and creepy carnies? Anyway, basically none of that is in this book.
What Joyland actually is is a coming of age tale that just so happens to be set in an amusement park, and that also has some ghosts (maybe) and some murder (but just a little bit) and a nicely flavored mystery. Also it has some sex, which was great because A) SEXYTIMES, and B) SURPRISE SEXYTIMES. It’s also (bummer) a sneaky meditation on death. This is one of King’s character novels, more in the vein of The Body than The Shining. It is the story of the best (and worst) summer of 21-year old Devin Jones’ life.
I’m going to choose to stop writing here and make this a short review because I went in knowing NOTHING about the plot and it was so much better that way. Even if you’re not a SK fan, this is worth checking out — it’s just a good story. I’d also highly recommend the audiobook. Michael Kelly does a pitch-perfect performance as narrator.