Formulaic, in the best possible sense.
Joyland, by Stephen King
Devin Jones is a heartbroken college student working at a South Carolina amusement park over the summer between his junior and senior years. He makes some friends, pines, works his tail off, and stumbles across a murder mystery in the process.
If you have read a pulp novel, you have read this story.
If you have read a handful of Stephen King novels, you have read this story.
And that is what’s great about it. Every year, I go to the State Fair and get a corn dog and a big fresh-squeezed lemonade. I know just how they will taste, and I love them just as much every time.
Joyland deftly combines some of King’s most familiar themes and quirks (coming-of-age, the power of childhood friendships, everyday evil, leaving no breast un-described) with the formula of cheapie paperback mysteries from the 70s. Two great tastes that taste great together. There is even a cheeky wink at the format, in the form of tossed-off comment about Joyland’s mascot resembling Scooby-Doo.
I can’t recommend Joyland enough if you enjoy stories with a little horror, a lot of humanity, and a little magic. Short enough to be fun and long enough to be satisfying. It had me nostalgic for a rather terrible job at a summer camp I had around the time I was the main character’s age.
- I love carnivals and amusement parks in real life and as a novel setting. I think I may explore that in a future Character Study.
- “When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.”
- Very little gross-out gore in this, especially for a King novel.
- I bought this in pocket-size paperback, as King hoped it would be read. I miss those novels, easily stashed in a purse or glove-box for unexpected downtime.
- Going with a painted illustration over a photograph or a hyper-modern graphic for the cover was a great choice, as an object this book is the total package. A piece of nostalgia through-and-through.