Review: Joyland

Joyland by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #61 for 2016
My Personal Reading Challenge Task: A book featuring an amusement park.

This book is put out by a mystery publisher, but it’s a mystery in much the same way The Green Mile is a mystery. It is, and the mystery plays an important role, but it’s not what the book is about in its heart. In its heart of hearts, this is a nostalgic coming-of-age story about coming to terms with loss. But it’s set in an amusement park, and it’s Stephen King, so you know it has to be pretty damn creepy, am I right? And being set in 1973, the nods to Scooby-Doo are spot-on.

The story shifts between the narrator’s summer job during his college days and his retired self recalling it decades later. King handled this nicely, providing some foreshadowing and also giving some context for some of the details he pointed out or glossed over, as needed. It also made for a narrator who was realistically unreliable but still trustworthy.

This would be a good starting point for somebody wanting to try King but not wanting full-on horror. The horror element here is pretty light, and if you ask me, the most horrifying scene actually revolves around performing CPR with mouth-to-mouth. Also, at 7 discs, this is pretty dang short for King, so it’s not a huge time investment. I would also recommend this book to anybody with a particular interest in old-school amusement parks, as at times it felt like King wrote this book just to talk about carny culture. (That’s not a criticism. He was clearly enjoying himself, and it was surprisingly interesting.)

My only real criticism is that the mystery portion of the story is kind of weak, with Erin (the Daphne character to Jonesy’s Scooby) stepping up to do the bulk of the sleuthing(view spoiler). Still, everything came together quite nicely, and I think the core story is well worth reading on its own merits. Overall, it’s a 4.5-star kind of read, and I’ll round up to 5.

View all my reviews


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