Hello everyone and welcome to a brand new edition of Lil Red’s Book Club! Today, we are going to be discussing a super fun read by Stephen King called Joyland – without giving any spoilers away, of course. Set at the old fashioned amusement park, Joyland, in Heaven’s Bay, North Carolina, this book was completely charming. And, yes, I realize that Stephen King’s books don’t get described as that often but Joyland was such a far cry from his usual full fledged horror writing and I couldn’t put it down! Before we begin, I will be putting a trigger warning on Joyland for violence and murder. Now, let’s get to it:
Summertime is approaching for twenty-one year old college student, Devin Jones, and he is in desperate need of a job. He is utterly heartbroken from his previous relationship, broke, and wants to be anywhere but cleaning up in the dining hall. On a whim, he decides to apply at Joyland as a general employee after seeing an ad in the classifieds. During his trip to the park in Heaven’s Bay, North Carolina for his interview, Devin decides that there are worse places to spend his summer and accepts the gig.
During his tour, Devin learns that Joyland is an old school amusement park with carny flare. There are a few big rides but the majority of attractions offered are for the entire family, making it an ideal summer destination. The games, rides, and vending stands are all ran by year round “carny from carny” folks, which is The Talk for a family of carnival workers. Don’t worry, you’ll get familiar with The Talk (Joyland’s secret lingo) soon enough! Joyland is in the business of selling fun but there is one ride that even the bravest employees don’t like to be around – the Horror House. A young woman, Linda Gray, was murdered on the ride and it is believed to be haunted. Oh yeah, and the murderer is still at large.
After a few short weeks, it’s time for Devin’s summertime job to begin and he enjoys it immensely. Kind employees like Lane, Fred, and Pop take him under their wings and show him the ropes about everything from operating rides to “wearing the fur”. AKA dressing up as the park’s mascot: Howie The Happy Hound. He has even managed to make a few friends, Tom and Erin, who live in the same boarding house as him and also work the park. Devin spends his days working hard and is eager to get a glimpse of the Horror House ghost and maybe even solve the mystery of her death.
As summer continues on, Devin becomes a staple in the lives of Annie and Mike Ross who live in a beautiful beach home that he walks by every day to and from work. Annie is a young mom and her son, Mike, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which confines them to their home. And, let’s just say that Annie makes it a bit easier for Devin to forget his ex girlfriend! In fact, Devin decides to stay on as a full time employee at Joyland – half for the Rosses and half for Linda Gray.
Thanks to some research from Erin, who is now back at school, her findings show a pattern of other young ladies killed in a similar fashion. Linda Gray’s killer has murdered several girls and Devin is nowhere closer to solving the crime. But, there’s something about the photos that Erin shows him that bothers him. The pictures of the killer at the park with Linda has a familiarity to them that he can’t put his finger on. Perhaps, the killer has been under everyone’s noses the entire time. Will Devin be able to bring the killer forward and put Linda Gray’s ghost to rest? Read Joyland to find out!
I seriously loved everything about Joyland and my only regret is that it wasn’t longer. After I read the last page, I told Johnny that I wished there was more or that a TV series was made about it. It was just so good and, honestly, really cute. And, once again, it feels weird to me to describe a Stephen King book as such! King’s writing made you feel like you were walking along the Joyland boardwalks with Devin and the carny Talk that the employees used further enhanced the old time park vibes. It was such a fun read that I wanted to take a ride on the Carolina Spin and Delirium Shaker myself!
While this book was based around solving a murder, it was really not as gruesome as you could imagine for a King book. It almost seemed like an afterthought to the story of Devin growing into an adult. It was exciting to read about the unsolved crime but it was even better to read about Devin’s sweet relationship with Mike and the other characters that made Heaven’s Bay special. I enjoyed how character rather than plot driven Joyland was and I wanted to be friends with all of the people who graced the pages.
I will say that the grand reveal was very easy to solve and that’s okay. I think anything too convoluted would have taken away from the overall simplicity of the story. I actually wouldn’t mind reading it again from the perspective of knowing who the killer is because certain parts immediately popped out at me and I’d like to find more. If you like to play detective like me, just keep in mind that everyone puts on a mask when they are in the business of selling fun.
I am going to award Joyland with the coveted ten out of ten stars. Stephen King might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I think that everyone will be able to find something that they like about this book. I highly recommend it and plan on reading it again in the future!
What are you currently reading? What should I read next? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah