Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review: Joyland by Stephen King

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):  "I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts," says Stephen King, who has combined these elements into a wonderful new story. Joyland is a whodunit noir crime novel and a haunting ghost story set in the world of an amusement park.

It tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a 'carny' in small-town North Carolina and has to confront the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the way both will change his life forever. It is also a wonderful coming-of-age novel about friendship, loss, and your first heartbreak. Who dares enter the funhouse of fear?

And here's what I thought:  Reading this just made me happy.   As soon as I started it, I knew I was going to settle in and enjoy myself.  King keeps it pretty simple here, with one main character, and some supporting characters, but with a focus on a specific place and a specific time.  He doesn't spread the story out over years, but instead, focuses on a pretty short time period.  That's not to say that not much happens; on the contrary, quite a bit happens.  There is a lot of character development, and a lot of story packed into this book.

One of the things that I liked about this book was that the pacing was consistent, and then, towards the end (of course), it sped up a bit.  But, even though there was some reflection going on by the main character from time to time, I didn't feel like there was any choppiness, or stalling out.  I also liked that this book had a realistic set of characters, and a realistic setting, with the bit of the supernatural edge to some of it.   This is something I've liked in other books by Stephen King, and I actually prefer it over the more horror-focused stories.  Plus, throw in an old amusement park as a setting, and I'm hooked.

I have read almost all of Stephen King's books and find that I enjoy his later books more than his early books.  Sure, the first time I read Christine, I thought it was cool.  And I think I was maybe 10.   But going back for a re-read a few years ago, I just didn't like it as much.   The books I find I enjoy tend to be ones that he wrote later on, like It, and Bag of Bones, The Stand, Insomnia....

This is a smart book, with a lot of appeal.  I found it to be a page-turner, and it kept me thinking after I had finished it, which I appreciate.

First lines:  I had a car, but on most days in that fall of 1973 I walked to Joyland from Mrs. Shoplaw's Beachside Accomodations in the town of Heaven's Bay.  It seemed like the right thing to do.  The only thing, actually.  By early September, Heaven Beach was almost completely deserted, which suited my mood.  That fall was the most beautiful of my life.  Even forty years later I can say that. 


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