Joyland by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Joyland is the first book I have read by the illustrious Stephen King. I have heard many times over about what a phenomenal writer King is, but have simply never bothered to read any of his novels.
While I was visiting Chapters last week, I met a very very enthusiastic employee who got into a large discussion with me about books and reading. It was refreshing to talk to someone who had tried out different genres and appeared to have the same tastes as myself. She strongly recommend three books to me: Joyland by Stephen King, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zafon.
So, of course, I ended up purchasing all three books (it's an addiction, I swear) and I started out with The Rosie Project. I obviously won't get into the my thoughts on that book--there will be a review coming soon on it as well.
Joyland! My first Stephen King! I have no other works by him to compare it to (the movie The Shining, which incidentally traumatized me, doesn't count), but here are my thoughts.
Devin Jones is our boy. After finishing a year of university/college (I never understand the American-Canadian post-secondary word difference) in New Hampshire , he decides to spend his summer working at a small amusement park called "Joyland" in North Carolina.
He is 21-years-old and a bit angsty. His first relationship is rapidly disintegrating and he is grasping desperately to hang onto his girlfriend. However, as they have made the decision to spend their summer apart, he knows that they will no longer be together.
When he first arrives, he finds himself becoming accustomed to the "carny" (carnival) lingo and the many different personalities that the amusement park life attracts. He makes friends with two other young people from him work team, Erin and Tom.
He quickly settles into the various tasks that are assigned to him, including wearing a large furry costume dog and dancing/entertaining bunches of children.
Doom lurks though and he is warned to watch himself and be careful by the resident fortune teller, Rozzie. All the "green" summer hires are told the story of young woman whose ghost haunted the Horror House. Murdered by an unidentified man, her throat was slit while riding the car of the Horror House and her soul was left to wander throughout the ride.
In the meantime, Devin ends up becoming entangled with a young boy Mike who is dying imminently and his mother Annie Ross. Relationships are forged, bonds are made and Devin loses his virginity (eventually) and grows into a man.
When the inevitable "creepy" part of the book begins to occur, you aren't left with much. There's a brief ghost encounter, it becomes obvious her death was part of a string of serial murders, and Devin (with the help of his friend Erin) tries to solve the mystery himself.
Sure there's that creepy "ghost" going-ons, but it all seems small time compared to the disintegrating naked bathtub lady and axes flying through walls. Even the notion of "the shining" (being able to communicate telepathically), is creepier than the idea of seeing a ghost. Nothing in the book made my skin crawl or goose bumps surface.
The notion of there being a serial killer isn't so shocking either. Perhaps it's because of modern day technology and media exposure...whatever the reason, the big reveal of the murders all being committed by one person wasn't surprising or shocking to me at all. Even when the identity of the murderer is revealed, I wasn't all that shocked either.
Some reviewers of this novel went as far to say that they were moved to tears by the ending of the story. I do not understand this at all. There was nothing poignant or especially moving about it. The story of a boy growing to be a man was interesting enough and I did find myself compelled to read through it very quickly.
My first experience with Stephen King was good, but not exceptional or even VERY good. I would probably try another one of his novels, but I expect they will be very different from Joyland. What I liked most about Joyland was the atmosphere of the amusement park and the descriptions of the area, including the neighboring town; in a way, it reminded me of my younger days vacationing in smaller villages. King's descriptive prose is not lacking.
I didn't find myself incredibly moved by this novel, but I did enjoy reading it. 3/5 stars for a story that I liked.
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