JoyLand Book Review (2014)

Devin “Jonesy” Jones is a twenty-one year old college student with writing aspirations. In the summer of 1973, he finds himself spending his summer working for an amusement park known as Joyland, hoping to get over his former girlfriend. But Joyland is anything but jovial. It has a dark past filled with murder, mystery and most of all, a ghost.

I found Joyland to be relatively enjoyable read. It’s not an amazing read but enjoyable. King managed to craft a sympathetic character who is funny, likeable and mildly interesting.

The problem is, Joyland is less of a thriller/detective story and more of a coming of age tale. The seedy history of Joyland was really more of a B-plot that occasionally reared its head to remind you that you’re reading a Stephen King book and not some light fluff remincient of a Nicholas Sparks book.
The crux of the story really hinges on life lessons learned during a summer away from college when Devin just happens to fail backwards into solving an old mystery.

So if you bought Joyland hopping for a gritty noir story, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Unlike 11/22/63, King’s previous outing before Joyland, this book just doesn’t satisfy.

It lacks the King hallmark that have brought millions of readers into the fold for years. While being different is ultimately a good thing, it didn’t seem to work here.

One of the many things that define a Stephen King novel is his ability to craft characters with backstory’s so rich, you’d think you would have known them their entire lives. Not so here. We get glimpses into Devin’s past and present throughout the book but never enough to think he truly know the character. He might be likeable but the real mystery is Devin himself.

Another hallmark was King’s ability to bring you into the past. You would think that you were in the time period he writes about as opposed to just being privy to someone’s story. You could almost be walking right alongside his characters as his story was happening and not just passively listening to someone else’s story.

I do appreciate the references to various novels, music and writers. The cover of the book perfect, capturing those dime store novels of the past and the fact it was only released in paperback makes me appreciate it all the more.

Although it’s a short read, I think you’ll find yourself left unsatied by this King effort if you go into it with the wrong mind set. Be forwarned that the book is less a mystery and more a character story. It has its moments and I’m sure you’ll take something away from this as you will any King book. Only time will tell if it will stay with you, though.

Three out of five stars.

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