Last summer I devoted quite a bit of time to Stephen King. I read Under the Dome, 11/22/63, and The Shining, all of which were amazing. This summer, he has a new book out – Joyland, which was published with a smaller publishing firm, Hard Case Crime. His choice to release this book as a mystery paperback was interesting given that King isn’t normally associated with mystery. Of course I was intrigued! It’s just King’s style to keep readers guessing, exploring new genres, and surprising his fans with consistently great books. I thought Joyland was no exception.
Although Joyland is presented as a crime novel, it is much more than that, again in keeping with King’s versatile writing style. It incorporates many different stories into a mysterious murder investigation. It’s a coming-of-age story, a story about a hero bound to change and save lives, a history on carnivals and carny traditions, and there’s even a bit of clairvoyance (which proves to be pivotal to the story). Reviewers have not been kind to King and this new endeavor of his, I try not to let that guide my decisions in choosing new books to read. I really enjoyed this book, it was fun – and an exciting summer read!
The story begins with Devin Jones, a 21 year old college student in search of a summer job. He’s looking for a bit of adventure, as well as an escape from a dead-end relationship with his girlfriend. He’s also drawn to the mysterious Joyland, a popular amusement park along the North Carolina coast. It is here, just 4 years before his arrival, that a young woman was murdered on one of the most popular rides. The mystery of how this young woman was murdered by her date while riding Horror House, is intriguing, as is the cast of characters that work this amusement park.
One of the most interesting characters is the park’s palm reader. With a fake accent, and what many believe a fake “gift” of clairvoyance, she predicts Dev’s future:
“Are you practicing your act?”
She drew herself up to her full height, which might have been five-two. “Is no act, my lad.” She said ect for act. “Jews are the most psychically sensitive race on the earth. This is a thing everyone knows.” She dropped the accent. “Also, Joyland beats hanging out a palmistry shingle on Second AVenue. Sorrowful or not, I like you. You give off good vibrations.”
“One of my very favorite Beach Boys songs.”
“But you are on the edge of great sorrow.” She paused, doing the old emphasis thing. “And, perhaps, danger.”
“Do you see a beautiful woman with dark hair in my future?” Wendy was a beautiful woman with dark hair.
“No,” Rozzie said, and what came next stopped me dead. “She is in your past.”
The most important element of this prediction comes a little later, which proves to be a foreshadowing of what comes later in Dev’s stay at Joyland. But it’s here, at the beginning, that he starts to consider moving on from this bad relationship, who throughout the book he wonders if this girlfriend ever really loved him. Most of the others who work the park pay no attention to Rozzie’s readings, but this experience has really sticks with Dev.
Near the end, it was impossible to put this book down. Any fan of King’s will enjoy this one – and if you haven’t considered reading one of his many books, it’s time to start!
Any King books I need to add to my must-read list?