As a younger person, I was a huge Stephen King fan. I read all his horror classics: Salem’s Lot, Christine, Pet Sematary, etc. Joyland is much different than those books. First of all, it’s “Hard Case Crime” novel. There is a murder mystery, and yes, also a ghost and some psychic stuff. It’s quite a nostalgic story. An older man is thinking back to the summer he was 21 in 1973, when he worked as a carnival worker in North Carolina.
Devin is a college student looking for summer work which he finds at Joyland along with several other young people.Sometime during the first few weeks, he’s dumped by his girlfriend. He’s heartbroken but the carny life of Joyland keeps him distracted. He’s especially intrigued by the murder of Linda Gray four years earlier. The young woman was killed by her companion on the Horror House ride and the rumour is she still haunts the tracks. As summer turns to fall, Devin continues to feel the lure of the amusement park, even after his friends return to school. He just can’t let it go yet and he can’t shake the feeling that the answer to the death of Linda Gray is hidden somewhere in the park.
There are a lot of feelings in this book. The whole thing is one big long flashback and the narrator often interjects to tell us how so-and-so died and it was sad. There’s a sick kid too. Also sad. It reminds me of the interesting stories my mother-in-law would tell and then end with, “And then they died 10 years ago.” It would get awkward. I wonder if that’s how I’m going to get. So, it’s one big long grandpa story.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Joyland because I did. I loved the characters: Devin, his friends, the carnies, Annie, and the little boy. The women in the book aren’t shrinking violets, which I appreciate. I did find Devin to be somewhat too good to be true but at the same time relieved that he wasn’t an extremely emo guy. He did listen to The Doors a lot but he wasn’t an angry at the world type.
Joyland takes awhile to get started but once Devin is settled into Joyland, the pace picks up somewhat. There’s an exciting though predictable ending.
It wasn’t my favorite King novel. Next time I read something by him, I’m just going to reread The Shining. I still get creeped out by Redrum.