Book Review — “Joyland” by Stephen King

JoylandJoyland by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Normally this isn’t the type of book I would choose to read. I’m not really a Stephen King fan. I don’t think he’s a bad writer, but I’m not into horror and gore, which is what I always think of when I hear his name. Plus the cover on this one looked ridiculous.

But an old college roommate of mine who has good taste in books told me that it was one of her favorite books, it wasn’t gory at all, and I should ignore the horrible cover.

It was a short book, so I went ahead and read it.

It made me feel … confused.

Not because the plot was difficult to follow, but because I had a hard time understanding exactly what kind of book this was, and where exactly it was going.

The cover, including the tag line, “Who dares to enter the funhouse of fear?” makes it sound like silly horror book. The fact that it’s labeled a “hard crime” book at the top makes it sound like a murder mystery/crime detective story.

But it’s mostly a coming-of-age story about a older man waxing nostalgia about the summer he mourned over a lost love, had a job that gave him meaning and purpose, and got laid for the first time. Oh, and every now and then there’s a brief mention of a ghost and a murder that happened years ago.

A really weird combo.

Despite this, I was enjoying for it for a while. There’s something about SK’s style that’s very appealing in a way I can’t quite explain. But then I happened to pick up a Jen Lancaster book and set Joyland aside for a while because I felt like reading it instead. It took me a long time to get back to it, and I finally had to force myself to just because I didn’t want to leave it unfinished. So I’m not sure what that says. Maybe just that it’s hard to get back to a book after you leave it.

A few negatives that jumped out at me:
1) I’ve never worked at an amusement park, but I find it hard to believe that workers are going from dressed up as characters to operating a ride to who-knows-what-else all within days or hours. How could a place that needs to pay close attention to safety be so unorganized and chaotic?

2) Did anyone else find it jarring that the sweet, sheltered ten year boy had a casual conversation full of swear words with an adult he basically didn’t even know? That totally did not fit, IMO.

3) The ending was total deau ex machina. — still kinda sweet, though.

I don’t know. I was torn between three and four stars. I liked it enough to consider trying another one of SK’s books. Any that are good, but not too gory?

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