ABR’s #CBR5 Review #19: Joyland by Stephen King


joylandI am a fan of Stephen King. I think Carrie and Pet Sematary are horrifying reads. I think Different Seasons is brilliant. That said I haven’t read Stephen King for years. When Joyland was published I thought it was a good time to start again.

My first thought was that if you are a rabid Stephen King fan, you might be disappointed in Joyland. It’s more a tender, nostalgic coming-of-age story than a “typical” Stephen King horror story. But the more I read the more I thought that if you are a King fan, you’ll love this book. And if you’ve never really enjoyed Stephen King, you too might just love this book. While it does contain some of the tried and true Stephen King tropes – horror, suspense, great dialogue, sympathetic characters – the story isn’t so fantastical you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy it.


The story is told in flashback by Devin Jones, now a man in his 60s, who spent the summer of 1973 working in the Joyland amusement park. Years before Devin’s arrival a young girl was murdered on one of the rides, and rumors and legends about her ghost abound. Through a series of serendipitous events, Devin becomes a star performer at Joyland, attracts the attention of a protective single mom and her son, and delves into the murder. 

Joyland won’t get under your skin the way some Stephen King stories can, but it does have a little something for every reader. There is horror, violence, heartbreak, romance and yes, sex. But the heart of the story is quite sentimental and wistful. 

Alli’s #CBR5 Review #7: Joyland by Stephen King

So it is pretty much a given that I will read every Stephen King book put in front of me (except 11/22/63 which has been on my shelf almost 2 years and I haven’t yet cracked the spine, maybe some day). So when I was seeking out a new audiobook to entertain me on my long drive days I stumbled upon this one and it didn’t take long for me to decide that it was for me.

Read the rest on my blog

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 40: Joyland by Stephen King

UnknownI’ve been reading Stephen King books since I was going in to the 8th grade, many, many years ago. I’ve probably read more than 90% of everything he’s published since then (there are lots of those random short stories floating around, in magazines I’ve never heard of). I’ve loved a lot of his stuff (hello, Dark Tower books 1-5, how are you?). I’ve been less than enthused with some of his stuff (Under the Dome! Song of Susannah!). But I can’t think of a single book by King that I’ve ENJOYED as much as Joyland, ever. I had such a good time reading this book. It was fun. What more do you need to know?

Joyland is a coming of age tale (which nobody does like King) about a guy named Devin who is a student at UNH in the 1970s. He gets his heart broken and decides to get some fresh scenery, taking a summer job at an amusement park in North Carolina. Joyland is filled with colorful characters, lots of “carny” speak, and of course, a mysterious ghost story. Rumor has it that a few years before, a young woman was murdered in Joyland’s haunted house, and her ghost still haunts the ride for a select few who can see her. Devin hasn’t seen her, but he sure would like to.

Devin also has the pleasure of meeting young Mike Ross (a dying young boy, who, because this is Stephen King, has a bit of “the touch”), his beautiful mother Annie, and their delightful Jack Russell terrier, Milo. He befriends them and gives the boy one of his dying wishes — to spend a day at Joyland.

Of course, the two plots intersect and overlap each other. And while the ending isn’t what I’d call “happy”, I still enjoyed every last bit of it.

Yes, in true King fashion, the scene in which we find out “whodunnit” is a bit clunky, but I’m going to let it slide this time. It really didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the story.

This is King at his best — think Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption or Stand By Me — where he tells a nostalgic story with a sympathetic narrator. Yes, there is a ghost and a bad guy, but the story is more about a good guy growing up to become a good man. I highly recommend it, to King’s Constant Reader and the non-King reader alike.

You can read more of my reviews (with lots of Stephen King) on my blog.


Kira’s #CBR5 Review #27: Joyland, by Stephen King

joyland (1)In the grand scheme of the King ouvre, Joyland is a throwaway. It’s more a novella than a novel, almost a campfire story. It occupies a limited universe, for the most part a single point in time, and lacks even one Maine resident, or rip in the space-time continuum (though there is a psychic kid). The book is short and sweet, and its supernatural elements are understated, almost to a fault. Joyland is the kind of novel I imagine King dreams up at a red light, or on a long elevator ride. “So…what if there was a carny legend about a haunted funhouse…” and then the signal goes green and he drives off. Bam. Novel.

And essentially, that’s what the book is about. Told in flashback by narrator/protagonist Devin Jones—now in his 60s—Joyland is the story of a summer and fall Dev spent working at Joyland, a seaside amusement park in North Carolina. While there, Dev makes friends, mourns a breakup and learns what it means to “wear the fur” on a 100-degree day in August. But throughout his time at Joyland, Dev is also haunted by the story of a girl who was murdered in the Horror House by her boyfriend. Carny lore is that her ghost still appears there to this day.

So Joyland isn’t epic, or even particularly memorable. But this is the thing about Stephen King. Even his red-light/elevator-ride novels are good. Not like Under the Dome good (let alone Shawshank good, or—I’m told—The Stand good) but still enjoyable, absorbing, capable of distracting one from everyday life.



Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #59: Joyland by Stephen King


Joyland, like Ghost Story, is guilty of taking its merry time delving into the mystery at its core. Early on, we’re told of a young woman who was murdered at the eponymous amusement park, her ghost now haunting the ride on which she met that untimely fate. Given the title, and the Hard Case Crime imprint, it didn’t seem off base to expect this to play a greater role in the story than it did.

Now, if I’d paid closer attention, I would’ve taken the hearts that break up the book as an obvious sign to the contrary. Like with Straub, it was more about the atmosphere than anything else. The “hard case crime” in question was merely a backdrop to the romance that was the real, pun intended, heart of the story.

Were it not being published by Hard Case Crime, I feel he could’ve easily cut out the murder subplot entirely and that the story would’ve benefited from such a change because it feels weighed down by the obligation it has to resolve it. What I’ll remember Joyland for is its romanticism, for friendship, young love, and times gone by.

Moreover, its ending will stick with me in a way that no ending of King’s ever has. Up until it, I had been eyeing a rating of 3, and it alone brought Joylandalmost within reach of that elusive 4. Though I’ve never took issue with how King’s chosen to end his stories, I never knew he had an ending of this caliber in him. Part of me wonders if that part was someone else’s idea, like the fabulously dark ending Frank Darabont thought up for his adaptation of The Mist which King is on the record as liking.

Thanks to that ending, Joyland has left me more optimistic about King’s future as a writer than my rating would likely lead you to believe. The Wind Through the KeyholeUnder the Dome, and Full Dark, No Stars had me thinking King had all but lost the magic he’d hit on just recently with Lisey’s Story through Just After Sunset, probably my favorite grouping of books in his career thus far. But Joyland ended enough on the upswing to give me hope and make me think that 11/22/63 wasn’t as much an anomaly of this latter part of his career as it was a sign that he still has the ability to write something that absolutely spot on.

My expectations for Doctor Sleep aren’t high, admittedly, but after Joyland I’ll at least give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that I’m wrong to think it’ll be a failure. Joyland and The Wind Through the Keyhole may both have received the same rating from me, but here’s to hoping Doctor Sleep leans more towards the former than the latter, because the gap in quality between the two is a lot wider than you’d think.


Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.