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Cannonball Read V: Joyland by Stephen King

By loulamac | Book Reviews | September 4, 2013 | Comments ()


joylandcover.jpg

(Loulamac is another Cannonballer who has just finished her full cannonball! Congratulations to her and to all of our Cannonballers who are plowing through to 52, and beyond! — mswas)

The Master’s latest offering, Joyland, is set in the magical world of a fading New England amusement park in 1973. Wonderfully, the fact that the novel shows much of the behind the scenes workings of the place does nothing to diminish that magic. King creates a place that is timeless yet aging, mysterious yet every-day, down-at-heel yet enchanted. As the reader you are as sucked into it as the book’s narrator and hero, Devin Jones.

Dev is a 21 year old college student who, rather than staying on-campus to work in the cafeteria, takes a summer job at Joyland. He is soon dumped by his first love and nursing a broken heart, for which his tasks manning the carny rides and dressing up as Howie the Happy Hound, Joyland’s mascot, provide some small distraction. He makes friends amongst the summer staff and old-timers, and becomes fascinated by a young woman and her terminally ill son. The thread that holds it all together, and makes the story more than just a memoir, is Dev’s interest in the unsolved murder of a young woman that happened on the (rumoured to be haunted) Horror House ride four years before.

There’s everything you’d expect from a King novel - a na├»ve young hero who’s about to go through life experiences that will make him grow up, the lasting friendships he makes during a time of adversity, a strangely gifted child, an older mentor, a charming dog - and more. The short (for him) novel is packed with lump-in-throat and wry-chuckle moments, and in its air of nostalgia, loss and celebration is reminiscent of “The Body” (later filmed as Stand By Me). The feel of King’s more accomplished work is present elsewhere too - the section where Dev is interviewed for the job at Joyland is like the good twin of Jack Torrance’s application to the Overlook Hotel - but overall the book is very much its own. The solving of the ghost story/murder mystery is secondary to the emotional journey our young hero goes on, and if I have any criticism it’s that the revelation of the identity of the killer and the final showdown are a bit clunky, but only by King’s stratospherically high standards. I can’t wait for Doctor Sleep.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it , and find more of loulamac’s reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • crispin

    One of the best books I've read in a long while. It really does hit you in the heart at times.

  • SnowMan

    I absolutely loved "Joyland."
    But then again, I'm a sucker for when Stephen King gets sentimental. As such, I think Uncle Stevie has done some very, very good work over the past few years.
    I thought "Cell" back in '06 was one of the best zombie-type novels I've read, and a strong return for King to balls-to-the-wall horror.
    I really liked "Duma Key," I think it's a better example of the "literary ghost story" King first tried to write with "Bag of Bones."
    King's short work is always great, "Just After Sunset" and "Full Dark, No Stars" included-- "FD, NS" especially, those stories truly are "full dark," and were great.
    "11/22/63" was exceptional. I can't complain about the length because it kept my interest, and the final scene actually made me cry-- a first with SK.
    Even "Under the Dome" is mostly great-- a better resolution and it could have been a classic.
    I understand (but disagree with) many criticisms of Stephen King's writing, but I truly think that his work from the late '00s and early '10s deserves another look, especially by fans that might have given up on him. Of course he's not the same writer he was 30+ years ago-- his goals and approach are different. But each era of his work has its merits, and what he might have lost in pure storytelling pizzazz these days has been regained by his becoming a better, more literary writer overall.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I stopped reading Stephen King a while ago, but I think it may be time for a return trip. . . .

  • SnowMan

    I've read everything SK has published, except a few of his most recent e-book short stories, and I think "Joyland" ranks near the top. Loulamac's review echoes much of what I felt, so if you're thinking of renewing your constant readership, this is a great place to start.

  • angie

    Ummm....it's set in North Carolina. The main character is from New England....

  • Siege

    I'm so glad to hear this was good. I love King, but some of his more recent works have been...questionable.

  • simplysarah

    Great review, I'll have to go pick up a copy!

  • karen

    great review

  • Devin McMusters

    Great summer read. And I know some people who have to endure "the wearing of the fur".

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