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Joyland (Hard Case Crime Novels) Mass Market Paperback – May 27, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013: What a smart, sweet, spooky, sexy gem of a story. In this one-off for the Hard Case Crime publishing imprint, King has found yet another outlet and format (print only, a zippy 280 pages) to suit his considerable talents. All are on full display here in the story of Devon Jones--"a twenty-one-year-old virgin with literary aspirations … and a broken heart"--who spends the summer of 1973 at Joyland amusement park in North Carolina. Devon makes new pals, proves himself to the hard-core carny workers, saves a girl’s life, befriends a dying boy (who has a secret gift), and falls for the boy’s protective, beautiful mother. The first half of the story is sweet and nostalgic, with modest hints of menace to come. (Think: “The Body,” King’s novella that became the film Stand By Me.) Devon learns to “sell fun” and “wear the fur” (carny-speak for dressing as Howie the Happy Hound, the park mascot), but he also learns about the woman who had been killed in the Funhouse, whose ghost still haunts Joyland. King has fun with the carny lingo--most of it researched and real, some of it invented. (The Ferris wheel, for example, is the chump-hoister.) The second half gets spookier, spinning into a full-on murder mystery--but also a love story, and a coming-of-age-story, with some supernatural fun woven in. More than a trifecta, this is King at his narrative and nostalgic best. A single-session tale to savor some summer afternoon. And then try not to keep thinking back on it. --Neal Thompson --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Michael Kelly begins his rendition of King's engaging short novel sounding pleasantly satisfied, if wistful, with just a twinge of regret—precisely the mood of Devin Jones, the book's protagonist. Now in his 60s, Devin recalls the details of how he spent 1973, working as a Happy Helper at Joyland, a slightly seedy North Carolina amusement park where, several years before his arrival, a young girl was murdered on a ride called Horror House. Kelly follows King's lead in fashioning a proper voice for each and every character, creating a delightfully unpretentious and winning listening experience. With this performance, it seems as if Kelly is himself responding to the advice given to new carnival employees by the sweetly paternal Joyland director, Bradley Easterbrook: Remember, the old man tells them, you're here to sell fun. A Hard Case paperback. (June) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Joyland is, excuse the pun, a roller coaster of fun. Crime mystery, a touch of horror, a bit of romance, summer jobs for college kids, bonfires on the beach, a great cast of characters and, most importantly, two "boys" on opposite ends of the childhood spectrum who become friends in spite of their differences.
Relax, enjoy the feel of of real book in your hands again and the crazy fun known as a Stephen King novel.
As the story unravels, the reader learns about carny life, carny "Talk, " and the particulars of Joyland. But the book is not all about Dev's work experience and the mystery of the Carnival Killer. It is about coming of age, developing friendships, and being heroic; in fact, to me, those were the more interesting themes in the novel.
I think that out of all of the authors I've read over the years, and there have been many- both authors AND years- Stephen King has always been one of the best at putting me there, right in the middle of the story. Whether it's the description of a chilly fall day or the last day of school, right before the bell rings for summer vacation, I can see it, feel it, remember for a minute EXACTLY how it was. I can't describe it better. He just somehow always manages to get it right. The beach at the beginning of summer changes as fall approaches. This is the setting for the story, and any of us fortunate enough to have spent a summer and fall near a beach will recognize the feeling of the change of seasons.
Devin Jones is a young man on the cusp between the end of childhood and manhood. He is opening his eyes to the world. He is nursing a broken heart and decides to take a semester off college and continue to work at Joyland Amusement Park after working there for the summer. His decision is partially because of his heart, but mostly because of Linda Gray. The ghost of a murdered young woman who didn't leave Joyland alive (and evidently has been unable to leave it dead either). He will stay for a boy named Mike and his mother, Annie. In their own ways both will usher in Dev's adulthood.
Mike brought back fond memories of Jack Sawyer from The Talisman and Jake Chambers from The Dark Tower. These are special boys who, willing or not, are destined for tough journeys. They have had to grow up too early and all three contain a fine threading of steel that will propel them forward despite terrifying circumstances. Survival and long life is definitely not guaranteed and for Mike, early death is a foregone conclusion.
This murder mystery grabbed me immediately, held me until the very end, made me remember old times, laugh, and damn near cry at the end. Classic Stephen King. I would expect nothing less.