Published by Hard Case Crime on June 4th, 2014
Genres: adult, mystery-thriller
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Joyland is a novel by Stephen King, published in 2013 by Hard Case Crime. It is King's second book for the imprint, following The Colorado Kid (2005). The first edition was released only in paperback, with the cover art created by Robert McGinnis and Glen Orbik. A limited hardcover edition followed a week later. The novel was nominated for the 2014 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original
I chose Joyland as my Halloween read this year. I will admit that I made this choice based mostly on the cover, and because it was set in an amusement park. Because other than that, it wasn’t really the greatest choice for a Halloween read. It’s really not scary at all, and it’s more of a coming-of-age novel than anything else. There is a mystery aspect to the story but it certainly isn’t horror.
But what it is is some great storytelling and writing. I’m not always the greatest fan of Stephen King’s writing. It has an odd style that doesn’t always translate well to my brain. I find this most often in his short stories, but at the same time, Under the Dome is one of my favorite books. I think I am inconsistent with King because his writing voice frequently changes depending on the topic he is writing about. I KNOW the writing in Joyland was great. But there were some moments when I found it a bit awkward and stilted. The carny lingo, some of which really existed, and some which King made up (read the acknowledgments), felt a bit forced to me.
As far as criticisms go though, that’s pretty much it. I would have liked to feel a little more emotion towards the characters, but I did enjoy the story itself, and you know, that’s the most important part. It’s also difficult to write third person omniscient POVs well, regardless of WHO you are. Sometimes it keeps the reader at a distance, and maybe that was my issue. Because Devin, our protagonist, was telling this tale to the reader as a much older and wiser character. Basically, he was flashing back to his teenage years and sharing his experiences at Joyland with us. Most of the times I liked it, but I also felt there was more telling than showing and that’s an easy thing to have happen with this POV. But as long as the voice is distinctive, and it was, it works for the most part.
Joyland is easily a book that can be read in a few hours if you can sit still. Hint: I cannot. So it took me a couple days, but hopefully someday I will get back to that place where my anxiety does not cause these issues for me. That said, the book is somewhat of a page turner though I do feel it started off slightly dull. For a book that’s only 288 pages, it takes a while to get going. The characters make up for it though, and I definitely think most readers will like them. I’ve read some reviews that state the characters in this one are superb, and I wouldn’t go that far, but MOST of them are well-developed. I did find it odd that Devin’s two closest friends while working at Joyland were kind of cardboard. Some of the choices that Stephen King made in this book just seemed odd to me. Not bad odd, just weird. It’s definitely an eccentric book.
The book wraps up well, and i had no issues with the ending or with any elements of the plot. It’s spooky but never scary, and there is a sense of foreboding during the second half of the book that kept building, which I loved. So I did actually like Joyland, but perhaps not as much as I thought I would. It’s not one of my favorite King books but it was engaging and I do recommend it, especially to those readers who love carnivals and theme parks. The atmosphere in this one is a winner.