Devin Jones gets a summer job at Joyland, working as a ‘carny’ to sell fun. While there, his first love breaks up with him, he discovers an unsolved murder and finds out he is really very good at wearing the fur. Towards the end of summer, Devin meets Annie Ross and her dying son, who seems to have a very special gift.
The book was very different to what I expected. To be honest, I sort of thought it would be a Stephen King crime novel. It’s not. Well, not really. There is a crime and yes, it is solved, but it’s less crime novel and more just, well, a King novel. And there is nothing wrong with that. The story of the murdered girl takes a backseat to Devin’s life, as he moves through the summer and into the autumn, as he works through his heartbreak, makes friends and meets Annie and her son.
I couldn’t put it down. King’s main character is relatable, and although he’s heartbroken and does keep mentioning it, King resists the urge to actually make Devin mope around and wallow in his own self-pity. We get the standard ‘friends are worried’ scene, but it’s not a huge deal. It’s handled in the same way a break-up would probably be handled. Yes, he locks himself in his room and listens to The Doors, is slightly jealous of the blossoming relationship between Mike and Erin and stops eating, but this is all slipped in with the narrative, told in the same way Devin talks about everything else.
The atmosphere of Joyland is created brilliantly. We get to experience it from Devin’s POV, get to see – as he does – the excited kids, the carny side of things, the operation of the rides. It feels at times like we could actually be there, smelling the hot dogs and riding on the Ferris wheel.
The story unravels slowly, as the mystery is revealed and Devin’s relationships with those around him grow. There’s a strong sense of Devin’s character throughout the story, and with every incident he becomes more and more likable. It’s a tale well worth reading, especially if you’re a fan of King’s work. Joyland draws you completely into the carny world, makes you really care for the characters and works well at making you eager to discover the mystery of the killer’s identity.
If you have or know a book you think I should check out, just let me know in the comments or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.