Review: Joyland by Stephen King

Joyland - Stephen King

Joyland was the first Stephen King’s book I’ve read. I always wanted to read one of his books, so when Joyland came out this year and I saw how short it was (especially considering some of his other books), I decided I’ll read this one. But I was in for a disappointment. I haven’t read any of its reviews before reading Joyland, so I was prepared for a horror story. I wanted the book to scare me, to give me goosebumps and make me feel afraid of going to sleep. I really wanted to read a horror, because so far all books failed to really scare me. So I must warn everybody who wants a horror story: this is not a horror at all. It’s a crime novel, with just a pinch of paranormal.

The story is narrated by a student Devin Jones, who in 1973 worked in amusement park Joyland, to get over his ex-girlfriend. He’s innocent, young and naive, a good guy. There’s a haunted house in Joyland, where a few years before a young girl was murdered by his boyfriend and many people say she’s still there, as a ghost. They never found her killer. It all becomes very interesting when Devin discovers there were more murders like that..and that this serial killer was never found.

There’s this feeling of nostalgia throughout the whole book. Even more than a crime story, Joyland is a story of memories of a man’s youth. A hot summer in a city by the sea, getting over his first love and hard work at the amusement park. I must confess, Stephen King is a master of prose. Words flew beautifully and I could just read the book for hours. It was never boring. My main problem is that I couldn’t really connect with Devin because I didn’t care that much about him. He was just a normal, good guy, going through hard time in his life. But we know he survives in the end, because he’s now old and telling us his story. So even in the last quarter of the book, when things got more intense, I wasn’t afraid for him. I didn’t guess the murderer, so that at least was a surprise. The paranormal aspect of the story is barely worth mentioning, because it had no larger role.

All in all, I liked the book, even if it wasn’t a horror like I wanted it to be. In my opinion, it would appeal more to adults, especially those who knew America in the seventies and would enjoy the nostalgia.