Carnies and Crime: Stephen King’s Joyland Book Review

Mickel Bailey, Student Life Reporter

With summer on the horizon and students just itching to burst from their classrooms, plans are to be made for the two month hiatus. With a trip to Heber Springs, or just wanting to stay at home a little longer, summer is the time for relaxation and enjoyment. With that, some might consider getting some reading done as well, get some of the hot new books under their belts. But one book may stand out to the rest, one that is about a summer of its own.

Published in June of 2013, Joyland was another divisive story from King’s usual tales of horror and monsters. Being more reminiscent of stories such as Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Body (better known as Stand By Me), Joyland is a story of love loss, growing up, and the mysterious nature of the afterlife. 

Set in the year of 1973, Joyland is the story of the summer of Devin Jones, a college student who starts working at the humble amusement park, Joyland, to earn some extra cash. In the process, Devin is devastated when his long-time girlfriend, Wendy, breaks up with him. He then uses Joyland, and the friendly people within, as a sort of coping mechanism to deal with his lost love. Then, Devin soon learns of a of a vicious murder, a murder set in one of the darker rides of Joyland, one that he starts to uncover answers to. 

As the plot progresses, Devin meets with Mike Ross, a ten-year-old born with muscular dystrophy, and Mike’s mother, Annie. Annie, being a protective mother, is at first very skeptical with Devin, but then they grow close. As their relationship grows stronger, so does the intertwining of their lives, and soon all the pieces fit together and Devin finds out that sometimes: “Life is not always a Butcher’s game. Sometimes the prizes are real. Sometimes they’re precious.”

In 2014, Joyland was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original. Reviews from the review-aggregator website Book Marks have given comments to Joyland such as: “The novel is like a plump wad of cotton candy; it fills the mouth with fluffy sweetness that quickly dissolves when the reader starts to chew.”

If you’re looking for a good summer reading that is as mysterious as it is heartwarming, then Joyland just might be the right book for you.