Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. Joyland is a brand-new novel and has never previously been published.
You guys know about the relationship that is Me + Stephen King. He's had a few flops in my eyes (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon...eh, and I'm so-so on Cujo), but for the most part, I devour and adore his work. His most recent release caught my eye, partially because of the premise (creepy amusement park crime novel, oooooh!) and partially because of its somewhat-limited release. It was primarily printed in paperback and audiobook format only...no e-books and very few hardcovers. I decided to go with the audio CD, narrated by Michael Kelly.
(Side note: while I was listening to this, we went on vacation to New Jersey and visited Wildwood one day. Their boardwalk amusement parks totally reminded me of Joyland! Which is probably not saying much for Wildwood...haha.)
|Wildwood...or Joyland? Hmmm...|
(Because what would a Stephen King novel be without a child with superpowers?)
I finished this audiobook a couple of weeks ago, and I'm still having a hard time deciding how I feel about Stephen King as a "whodunit" author. The identity of the killer didn't come as a great surprise to me, which is what made me feel that this was less about the mystery and more about the maturation of Devin over the course of the story. And Devin's character is great, but I guess I wanted more than just that from the book at times. I go to Stephen King and want suspense--he's clearly the master of that arena. However, that is not a big element of this novel, and in that regard I felt mildly frustrated.
That said--ignoring my feelings about the lack of suspense, this is an excellent example of a coming-of-age story. As I mentioned already, Devin's character is excellent: witty, sarcastic, honest about his faults. I enjoyed watching him change throughout that fateful summer at Joyland. And Michael Kelly is an awesome narrator for the audiobook. He helped me visualize Devin in a clearer way than I may have been able to do while reading the paperback format. So in this regard, the book is a win.
Overall, this is obviously a mixed review. Joyland is not a typical King novel, so I'd say it's best to know that up front. If you focus more on the "human" element of the story, you'll be sure to admire it. But your average King creep-factor will be missing...so if that's important to you, you may want to try another of his works.