He’s a living legend and one of the most popular American storytellers of our time. Stephen King’s novel JOYLAND is a perfect read for the summer. If you’re expecting a slasher in the Horror House, you’ll be disappointed. This is a feel-good coming of age story with summer nostalgia that won’t quit.
Here are 4 reasons why this is the best Stephen King book to read this summer!
1. The JOYLAND Amusement Park
The atmosphere of this novel sidelines the plot because it’s striking and memorable. Devin Jones spends his summer working at what George RR Martin called a “dying amusement park in the south.” Joyland has all the fixings of a summer carnival and amusement park. There’s a huge Ferris wheel called the Carolina Spin, a shooting gallery, merry-go-round, water park, carnival games, and a fortune teller. It gets you into the spirit of summer!
There’s a special way the employees at the park speak, using nicknames and monikers, called the Talk. You feel like you’re a part of this culture of the Carnies that references back to even the earliest of freak shows and carnivals.
The setting makes you want to re-live being a kid. Joyland has some of the typical Stephen King stuff such as ghosts and murders, but all those huge plot devices are diminished by the incredible setting that he’s created.
2. The Cover
The cover is a cheeky, delightful bonus to this book. On the front is a red haired girl, maybe a character from the book, in a green dress, with a camera. She is one of Joyland’s Hollywood Girls, who, dressed in tight green dresses, walk around the park taking pictures of families and couples. She looks like a vintage pin-up girl, giving a romantic feel to the book.
The cover is beautiful and it’s campy in a way that contrasts to the novel, which is quite grounding. The buxom girl on the cover promises a sexy and scary book, though it is a little misleading! It rightfully evokes the excitement of a carnival at night. I can almost smell the foot-long hot dogs.
Another surprising addition to this book is how it’s told in small parts. Each section is maybe half a page to a couple pages long and they’re all separated by a little heart. They make the book easy to read if you are the kind of person who reads on the train or on the go. It’s easy to drop in and out of the story. Great for casual readers.
Devin Jones tells us this story, reflecting on it as an older man. He brings us back to the days of his 21st year when he was a college student going through a tough time. He shows us what it means to grow up and grow old. In hindsight, he calls it the best and worst time of his life. He gets a summer job at Joyland and is heartbroken over his girlfriend who ghosted on him at the start of the summer.
In that way, his is also a story of love and loss. He makes some great friends who work at the park with him, he’s instantly popular among his co-workers because he seems to instinctively get what the amusement park is all about. The second half of the book is dominated by his relationship to his neighbors; a ten year old boy with MS, his mother, and their Jack Russell Terrier. He is a good guy and, sometimes, a hero.
4. Romantic Ode to the Summer Job
Anyone who has had a summer job in high school or college can relate to Joyland.. Many of us have had summer jobs where we slaved away for little money. In the moment, like Devin, we don’t realize how lucky we are. It’s not until after the summer upon reflection that we realize how much we developed and how much we have changed.
To me, summer is the most important time of the year. We’re away from the stresses of school and summer jobs are a way for us to test the waters and to try out different things. After all, even if things don’t work out the way we planned, there’s always next summer.
Do you like to read Stephen King’s mysteries or his horror stories?
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Featured image via Clam Festival