Author: Stephen King
Source: My copy
"I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts," says Stephen King, who has combined these elements into a wonderful new story. Joyland is a whodunit noir crime novel and a haunting ghost story set in the world of an amusement park.
It tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a 'carny' in small-town North Carolina and has to confront the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the way both will change his life forever. It is also a wonderful coming-of-age novel about friendship, loss, and your first heartbreak. Who dares enter the funhouse of fear?
I loved this book so much; I didn’t want it to end! The feel of it was classic top of his game King. It put me in mind of Bag of Bones. Thinner, and The Body. The story was a sentimental and nostalgic coming of age story; there were triumphs and revelations and a bit of sadness too. The story is told from the point of view of Devin as a wistful older man, looking back at this summer, a monumental one that changed him forever.
In the summer of 1973, college student Devin Jones packed his suitcase and his broken heart and headed down south to work at an amusement park named Joyland. He flounders at first, but soon falls right into the pace and life of a carny – not carny from carny, but good enough, especially at wearing the fur. He is taken under the wing of experienced carny Lane, and makes friends with his fellow coworkers and boarding housemates, Tom and Erin. (I have to interject here – it was a little weird for me to read the names. My name is Erin and my brother’s name is Devin, so it was odd to keep reading our names.) Devin is trying to outrun his heartbreak at the hands of his ex-girlfriend, Wendy. He throws himself into his work, and when not working, either escapes from his memories of his relationship with her by hanging out with Erin and Tom or Lane, and if they are not around, by listening to depressing 70s music in his room. King hints at suicidal thoughts, but doesn’t necessarily go all the way there.
Joyland is a happy place, with music, the calls of the carnies, the whooshing and clacking of the rides, the screams and laughter of the children and other patrons of the park. But Joyland has a dark secret, the ghost of a young woman. A few years ago, a young woman was murdered on a ride, and the killer was never caught. Devin plunges headfirst into the mystery, wanting to solve the case. He also wants to see the ghost. She is said to haunt the Horror House – which is run by the cantankerous Eddie Parks. (Eddie is short for Edwin, Devin later finds out, and it is also Stephen King’s middle name)
Devin and his friends work to solve the mystery – much like Scooby Doo and his gang. There are moments of heroism, moments of friendship, a young boy who is confined to a wheelchair but is able to go far in his dreams, the young boy's dog, his mom, and a killer.
One thing though..we never find out what happened to his ex-girlfriend Wendy, and in the story Devin himself says he never heard from her again, not even to properly break up. Did anyone else think this ominous?
Read as part of R.I.P. VIII - Peril the First