“A story about growing up and growing old”

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

King has always been one of my favourite authors, renowned for his horror writing it always surprises me at how good an author he is when taken away from his usual genre. True Joyland does have more than a little supernatural element enclosed within its plot, but it is primarily a tale of a boy becoming a man, that happens to include a murder mystery. The book is sold as ‘Hard Case Crime’ and I have not read any of the other titles so I am unsure as to how well it fit’s into the genre.

What is it about?

It follows Devin Jones a student who takes a summer job at an amusement park called Joyland, here he makes friends with Tom and Erin Although they all fit in well, Devin seems to take to it the easiest, leading some long term workers to claim that he must have some ‘Carny’ in him. However, there is a dark history lurking there. A number of years prior to that summer a girl named Linda Grey was brutally murdered in the haunted house and the killer is still at large. In a nod to King’s earlier work ‘The Shining’ there are certain characters here with a psychic ability to tell the future and sense the dead. The first Devin encounters is the fortune teller who gives him a reading offering both a glimpse of his future and a warning. Intrigued by the murder Devin begins to investigate the events surrounding the event.

Along the way (as foretold by the fortune teller) he encounters a woman and a crippled son that watch him walk to work daily. A friendship with the boy begins against the mothers wishes, and his own personal problems soon become an integral part of the choices Devin is forced to make. All this, coupled with a broken heart, leads Devin on a personal journey of discovery.

What did I like?

Everything. Aside from the Dark Tower books this has to be the best King book I have read. It follows in the tradition of Hearts in Atlantis, The Body, and The Green Mile in allowing the reader to really care about what happens next. I have read other reviews that describe this a coming of age novel, but I really have to say that there is so much more to it than that. King has expertly blended the real life problems encountered by a boy growing up with a mystery even Agatha Christie would be proud of. I am far from an emotional person, but even I couldn’t help but be drawn into the storyline, and while I can’t say I was a gibbering wreck at the end of the novel I certainly felt myself filling up. That is a first for me. I don’t want to go into the story any more than I have as it unfolds so beautifully that any more information would spoil the enjoyment. The ending was just so wonderfully written it will stay with me for a long time to come.

What didn’t I like?

If I had to be very critical, the only thing that I could say was the ‘carny’ language (alternative words used by fairground workers) was used a little too much, but not so much that it detracted from the storyline.

Would I recommend it?

In a heartbeat. Some people are turned off King because they have read his horror stories and felt let down by either the plot development or the mediocre endings (Under the Dome anyone?). I think Joyland would make a great starting point, both as an introduction to the author or those willing to revisit and give a second chance, of course King’s constant readers will need no persuading to get stuck into the book.

 

Reviewed by:

Lee Bridge

Added 5th April 2015

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Lee Bridge

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