Funhouse of Fear in Stephen King's Novel Joyland

All are on full display here in the story of Devon Jones--"a twenty-one-year-old virgin with literary aspirations … and a broken heart"--who spends the summer of 1973 at Joyland amusement park in North Carolina. Devon makes new pals, proves himself to the hard-core carny workers, saves a girl’s life, befriends a dying boy (who has a secret gift), and falls for the boy’s protective, beautiful mother.

"Joyland" is Stephen King's latest effort for Hard Case Crim. It is not a typical King journey into dark horror or extreme supernatural shenanigans. It is also not an epic quest or even related to the "Dark Tower" series. But it is one of King's more mellow, nostalgic coming-of-age novels surrounding a period (1973) murder mystery. Seems some reviewers are more concerned with what "Joyland" is not than with what it is.

Devin Jones is a college student working as a carny for summer employment in a North Carolina seasonal amusement park aptly named, Joyland. It is a summer in which Devin loses his innocence and his first real love, explores the history of an alleged haunted carny ride and the murder attached to it, finds his inner humanity with a dying boy who may have the gift of second sight, and rediscovers the possibility of new love. Whew! King enjoys taking his readers on a nostalgic melancholic tour of the early 1970's and what seemed important to young people in those turbulent years.

The narrative is told from the point of view of Devin Jones, remembering his summer working at Joyland during his time at university. While events are recounted, the benefit of hindsight allows some comments to creep in here and there, giving the story more emotion and grounding, letting you believe that this truly is an old man telling a tale of his youth. His memory of his first love, the fall-out of the relationship, and his reaction all play a large part in the story, a seemingly central point around which most of his thoughts revolve, at least to begin with. It's fortunate that King doesn't dwell to much on these aspects of Devin, instead focusing on the main attraction of Joyland: the park itself.

The King puts a lot of himself into his books, and this book reveals his depth and sensitivity! It is one of his many truly great stories. So touching, so fully immersive. You get to live with a great young man through a wonderful and tragic summer full of mystery, adventure, heart break, and wonder.

This is King at a high point, looking back over his career and telling a short but thrilling story. He managers to capture minds with a story that shows his talents.

A heartwarming story about growing up and learning your place in the world. But that's really just the start. Adventure, mystery, thrills and chills are all promised and boy does he deliver. Even if you have never read a book by Stephen King, for whatever reason, you simply must put "Joyland" at the top of this summer's reading list.