joyland cover stephen king novel
7.5 Overall Score

Good characterizations, quick and slick thriller

Lazy psychic kid

Book Info

Book Title:  Joyland

Publisher:  Hard Case Crime

Writer:  Stephen King

Release Date:  June 4, 2013


Hardback Edition

It is 1973, and Devin Jones has taken the summer to leave his New Hampshire home to work at a small ocean-side amusement park called Joyland in North Carolina.  While trying to get over a rough break-up, Devin meets a young single mother named Annie and her son Mike who is dying a rare disease…and Devin, Annie, and Mike become involved in a mystery.  A girl named Linda Gray was murdered in Joyland’s horror house year ago, but many say she still haunts the rides.  When Devin sets out to solve the murder, he could be putting himself and his friends in danger…because the killer could be closer than he suspects.

Written by Stephen King, Joyland was published by the Hard Case Crime publisher which primarily features noire style writing.  Following The Dark Tower:  The Wind Through the Keyhole in February 2012, the book was released in paperback but also released in a limited edition hardcover.  Joyland was received by critics and the winner of an Edgar Alan Poe Award for Best Paperback Original.

Joyland is an enjoyable novel and a bit of a change if you are familiar with King’s work.  King is a master of character creation and always manages to make very real and identifiable rounded characters that you instantly identify with.  Devin is a good King character in this sense and his semi-love interest Annie is also a nice match.


Italian Cover

The story for Joyland is where King makes a bit of a change.  King often likes to experiment with different genres and I’ve liked his dips into the crime drama.  King previously published The Colorado Kid in 2005 (which inspired Syfy’s Haven TV series) and it too was an enjoyable read.  Joyland does have a supernatural aspect to it, but it primarily involves the crime.

Stephen King is a great character creator, but sometimes struggles with plots.  He’s got a lot of basic “go-to” plot devices that might be considered lazy.  Psychic kids is the generic trope used by King here, and it does undermine a rather smart story.  The dying Mike character gets a warning from the ghost which helps bring about the conclusion of the story.  It is a bit unnecessary and out of the character of the story.

Joyland is a different Stephen King story and a bit more accessible for a wider range of readers.  If you enjoy noire and crime, this is a very smooth, quick, and slick read but might be a little too light on the supernatural if you love King’s scarier works.  Stephen King followed Joyland with The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep in September 2013.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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