Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Book Review: 'Joyland'

Kara Prior |
June 18, 2013 | 8:30 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

"Joyland" image taken from Amazon
"Joyland" image taken from Amazon
Like your favorite amusement park ride, "Joyland" is a thrilling experience from start to finish.

Set in the summer of 1973, the novel follows 21-year-old college student Devin Jones, or "Jonesy," who takes a job working at a carnival to mend his broken heart from his first love.

Because the author is Stephen King and the book cover advertises a picture of a gorgeous, startled redhead, I expected a bone-chilling mystery set in a haunted carnival. Instead, the book is a coming-of-age story about a young boy learning the sad truths about life, love and death. King makes Jonesy highly relatable to readers by letting us in on his every thought, opinion and gut reaction, making the reader empathize and feel Jonesy's emotions every step of the way.

Although "Joyland" has been described as a "whodunit" murder mystery, only a few moments were actually devoted to solving crime, focusing more on character development instead. I was actually a bit disappointed "Joyland" didn't meet my expectations of a spooky thriller.

But the setting kept the story captivating. King presents the carny life so vividly you feel as if you are actually there riding the rides, eating popcorn and playing the arcade games. Funnily enough, he even invents “carny lingo,” which is used so frequently the reader picks up the new language with ease. He even addresses his usage of this jargon in most of his author’s notes at the end, saying "carny purists" will probably email and write him for improper use of this slang. 

Upon finishing "Joyland," my emotions ran high, and I definitely had a lump in my throat from the bittersweet ending. This book is a great summer read. It has suspense, slight romance and a vintage-y summer vibe, perfect for passing time on a flight or lounging at the beach.

Reach reporter Kara Prior here.





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