Publisher: Hard Case Crime
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Page Count: 283
Key Words: carnival, murder mystery, 1970s
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Devin Jones has a couple of expectations when he takes a job at Joyland in the summer of 1973. He expects to wear the infamous 'fur' on hot summer days, he expects to learn how to run a couple of the rides, and he expects to make some extra cash. He does not expect to encounter a sick, young boy in a wheelchair and his mother. He also does not expect to learn of a grisly, unsolved murder that took place right in the spook house on the perimeter of Joyland property. In between bouts of sporting the fur and stressing over manning the ferris wheel, Devin becomes obsessed with cracking the case of this unsolved murder. All he has to go on are a couple of obscure photographs of the victim with her 'date,' the little boy in the wheelchair who has a touch of 'the sight,' and motivation to set her spirit free.
When you're twenty-one, life is a roadmap. It's only when you get to be twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect you've been looking at the map upside down, and not until you're forty are you entirely sure. By the time you're sixty, take it from me, you're fucking lost.Due to the fact that Stephen King is a freaking literary powerhouse, I don't think it's fully productive for me to write a big ol' review of Joyland. I do, however, want to talk about this book with you guys. So this one is going to be structured just a tad differently! This structure will probably also happen again when I am talking about books that are classics or written by authors who are as ginormous as someone like Stephen King.
What to love...:
- As with The Shining, which I read during Chicago's famed polar vortex, Joyland really builds a place up to the point where it becomes it's own character. The reader really gets sucked into Joyland. We become familiar with the different rides, down to the quirks that each ride has and how to operate them. We also get to experience Joyland as a visitor, we feel the joy that the kids feel in the nursery, and we feel the thrill of being at the very tippy top of the ferris wheel. By the end of reading Joyland, I felt like I had visited it with my family for the first time, and also like I had been working there for years.
- Even bigger than the place of Joyland, the characters were fabulous. Devin Jones is your average 21 year old kid. Disillusioned and a little directionless. He's also battling a fierce heartbreak after his first love ditches him. Despite him being a boy who sometimes just likes to read Tolkien in his room and listen to his The Doors records, he's extremely compassionate and has a solid heart. Then there's all of the carnies that man the booths at Joyland. The charming Lane Hardy. The accent-flipping psychic whose legitimacy can't be confirmed or denied. The cussing and rough around the edges Eddie Parks. The Willy Wonka-esque owner of Joyland. And, of course, the cut-to-the chase boy in a wheelchair, Michael, and his standoffish mother Annie. Each character was rich and had purpose to the story. We even learn how to coax the costume ladies and who is the best Scrabble player.
- The conclusion was very much a surprise, which is obviously important in a murder mystery! Dozens of different little seeds are planted throughout the novel that builds to the ultimate ending, but also leaves you suspecting a bunch of different outcomes.
We could see other fires--great leaping bonfires as well as cooking fires--all the way down the beach to the twinkling metropolis of Joyland. They made a lovely chain of burning jewelry. Such fires are probably illegal in the twenty-first century; the powers that be have a way of outlawing many beautiful things made by ordinary people. I don't know why that should be, I only know it is.
What's not as cool...
- When I read The Shining, I was riveted. I was also too terrified to crawl out of bed and go to the bathroom. It was scary, and I know Stephen King as the master of horror. This is not exactly a horror novel, and it wasn't very scary to me either. It's definitely a bit thrilling and suspenseful, however it was a very slow build. We learn of the unsolved murder about twenty pages in, and then it takes a while for them to really go back to it again.
- Michael, the young boy in a wheelchair, has a bit of 'the sight.' Naturally I compare this to Danny's 'shining' in The Shining. In Joyland, the 'sight' is a little less detailed and was a little disappointing to me. His abilities are only touched upon once or twice in a very vague manner. I would've liked for it to be included more, and maybe even more detailed like Danny's, or not at all.
Even though this novel was a slow mover, and the psychic abilities of one of the characters wasn't as advanced or valuable as other King characters, I really loved reading about the carnies that made up Joyland, all of its intricacies, and was truly surprised by the ending.
Have you read Joyland? Any other Stephen King novels?