Joyland by Stephen King

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The cover for Joyland is one of the reasons I decided to read the book for King’s March. I was drawn to its bright colours and retro hard-boiled detective novel style, although I had to put the book face-down on my dresser so my kids wouldn’t get an eyeful of the redhead’s cleavage. The cover looks exciting and who can resist a story set at an amusement park? Fun with a capital F!


Heartbroken over a break-up, Devin Jones decides to take a summer job at an amusement park in North Carolina called Joyland. Devin quickly becomes immersed in “carny” life learning the ropes from veteran Joyland employees. He also forms a close friendship with his co-workers, Erin and Tom. During the summer, Devin and his friends hear that a young girl was murdered years ago in the haunted house and her ghost still haunts the ride. Devin is fascinated by the story since the girl’s killer was never caught. The three friends decide to try the ride for themselves and Tom sees something, but won’t say whether it was the ghost of the girl. When summer ends, Devin decides to defer school and stay on at Joyland. He can’t stop thinking about the murdered girl and even though Erin has left for school, he enlists her help to research the case. During that time, he gets to know a single mom and her sick son, Mike. Eventually Mike reveals to Devin that he “knows” things and he knows about the girl in the haunted house. Meanwhile, Devin is crushing hard on Mike’s mom, Annie, the ice queen who slowly melts at Devin’s kindness. At a private visit to Joyland with Mike and Annie, the sick boy’s presence helps release the ghost of the dead girl. Then just when Devin figures out what happened to the girl, the killer reveals himself and is willing to do anything to keep Devin quiet — permanently.


Joyland is an excellent example of how Stephen King is a master storyteller. Like many of his other stories, Joyland is less about the scary mystery and more about the characters, in this case Devin Jones. The book is about growing up and fighting for the important things in life, such as friendship. I really enjoyed reading Devin’s experiences as a rookie carny and his summer of self-discovery.


Whether written purposefully this way or not, I’m glad the murder was secondary in Joyland because the mystery’s plot closely resembled your typical Scooby Doo episode. However, as unimaginative as the murder mystery was, it didn’t take anything away from the story.


Joyland is outstanding, a sincere and funny story about growing up one summer … with a thrilling murder mystery on the side. After not picking up a Stephen King book in years, I recently read the novella, Blockade Billy, which was pretty blah. But Joyland absolutely restored my faith in Stephen King as an iconic writer. Many years and books later, he’s still got it 100%.


9 Comments on “Joyland by Stephen King”

  1. Rory says:

    Blockade Billy is really underwhelming. I haven’t read Joyland yet (so I only skimmed your review), but now I am very much looking forward to it.

  2. Naomi says:

    This sounds like a good one, but it doesn’t look like I’m going to get to a Stephen King before the end of the month. Maybe next time!

  3. Melinda says:

    I’m scared of reading Stephen King, and I wish I could’ve taken part in King’s March.

    • I understand what you mean. If you ever decide to give him a try there are quite a few of his books that aren’t scary, such as 11/22/63 which is about the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Joyland has some supernatural elements, but it was in no way a scary story. It was more of a coming-of-age tale.

  4. Priya says:

    Not Scooby Doo! It wasn’t that rehashed, was it? I mean, for a book that had “Hard Case Crime” written on it, I was expecting a little more. It almost felt like he’d crammed a little too much story into the little book. I think it could have used more pages, to bring each aspect of the story to a more satisfying end. But I still liked it – I’m not even sure why – the ‘carny’ atmosphere and the characters made it special. Love your review!

    • Yes, it definitely wasn’t a hard case crime at all. I really loved learning about the carny world too and it’s different types of characters. I think he probably could have gotten away with just writing a growing up type story without the weak mystery, but overall it was a good book.

  5. […] Reading! has reviewed two King novel this week, yay! Her posts are about The Body and about Joyland, a book I read and loved last […]

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