I’ve been reading Stephen King books since I was going in to the 8th grade, many, many years ago. I’ve probably read more than 90% of everything he’s published since then (there are lots of those random short stories floating around, in magazines I’ve never heard of). I’ve loved a lot of his stuff (hello, Dark Tower books 1-5, how are you?). I’ve been less than enthused with some of his stuff (Under the Dome! Song of Susannah!). But I can’t think of a single book by King that I’ve ENJOYED as much as Joyland, ever. I had such a good time reading this book. It was fun. What more do you need to know?
Joyland is a coming of age tale (which nobody does like King) about a guy named Devin who is a student at UNH in the 1970s. He gets his heart broken and decides to get some fresh scenery, taking a summer job at an amusement park in North Carolina. Joyland is filled with colorful characters, lots of “carny” speak, and of course, a mysterious ghost story. Rumor has it that a few years before, a young woman was murdered in Joyland’s haunted house, and her ghost still haunts the ride for a select few who can see her. Devin hasn’t seen her, but he sure would like to.
Devin also has the pleasure of meeting young Mike Ross (a dying young boy, who, because this is Stephen King, has a bit of “the touch”), his beautiful mother Annie, and their delightful Jack Russell terrier, Milo. He befriends them and gives the boy one of his dying wishes — to spend a day at Joyland.
Of course, the two plots intersect and overlap each other. And while the ending isn’t what I’d call “happy”, I still enjoyed every last bit of it.
Yes, in true King fashion, the scene in which we find out “whodunnit” is a bit clunky, but I’m going to let it slide this time. It really didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the story.
This is King at his best — think Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption or Stand By Me — where he tells a nostalgic story with a sympathetic narrator. Yes, there is a ghost and a bad guy, but the story is more about a good guy growing up to become a good man. I highly recommend it, to King’s Constant Reader and the non-King reader alike.