Stephen King: Joyland Review

Stephen King is one of the first writers I tried as a teenager/adult, and have loved his stories ever since with him been one of my favourite writers. So when I noticed he had a new book out I had to get it, and having the tagline, "Who dares enter the Funhouse of Fear?" made it sound very interesting.


Devin Jones is a 21 year old college student, who decides to go and work at Joyland over the summer. Whilst there he discovers the story of a murder victim, befriends a dying child, as well as his first heartbreak.


This was a great book, and although it's not one of Stephen King's best, it was a fun read. King does a great job, shaping the character's perfectly, as although he doesn't describe them in vast detail like some writers, he adds so much depth to them, making them feel very real. The narration from King in this book was also perfect, giving a real gritty, and realistic tone, whilst also having ton's of drama, as although there wasn't a great deal of suspense, the story was very interesting, making me want to continue reading on and on, which is a very good thing. King did however have some suspense in this novel, especially near the end, but the best thing about King's writing in this novel besides the depth of character had to be the emotion he put in, as there were a lot of very emotional moments that made me go, "what?" The book wasn't however quite the mystery/horror that I hoped for, and more of a coming-of-age story, reminding me of King's novella The Body, which was made into the film, Stand by Me.

One of the main focus points of the start of the novel is Devin discovering heartache for the first time, which would continue throughout the story, shaping Devin's characteristics. I feel that King did a good job of this, as although there was a part of me that feels he's went a little over the top, that's probably a good thing, as pain of that magnitude won't go away that easy. I also loved how it was built-up, as although it made the story drag slightly, it gave a more realistic tone. I did however find it a little predictable at times, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad thing, as part of me feels it's too obvious, but at the same time it once again adds to the realism.

The main setting for most of the book was naturally Joyland, and although I was hopping for a very spooky, ghost town vibe to this theme park, it was still amazing for other reasons. The detail that King went into describing all the rides, as well as how he went into the carny talk, making the place come to life. I also liked how King thought ahead adding a note at the end of the novel stating that although some of the talk may not actually be correct, that it's fiction, and that some of it is. Joyland was also written in a very fun way, which was very fitting, and appropriate. I also found Devin's experience to be very interesting, going from one of the new guys, to loving the place.

All stories need it's group of side character's, and this story had it in abundance, from all the Joyland staff, to Devin's landlady, Mrs. Shoplaw, to Devin's work, and lifelong friends Tom Kennedy, and Erin Cook. I will however only talk about his work friends, Tom, and Erin. The relationship between the three character's in this novel was very well handled, feeling realistic, and natural. The differences in personality was also brilliant, and the way they changed over their time in Joyland was also interesting. It was also interesting that the three would remain friends, and King did a terrific job of showing how they cared for each other, which added yet more depth to the character's.

The part of the story where the mystery falls in is Devin's intrigue into a murder victim, who was killed at the Horror House in Joyland, wanting to see her ghost, as well as find out who killed her. This was a very interesting addition to the story, adding more excitement, as well as most of the story's suspense. It wasn't however quite the spooky mystery that I was hoping for, as although it was very dramatic, and suspenseful near the end of the story, with a few interesting points prior, it was overall slightly disappointing. It was however still very interesting, and well thought out, keeping to the realistic tone of the story.

Tom, and Erin weren't the only friends that Devin would make during his time at Joyland, as he'd also befriend a dying child named Mike Ross, and eventually his mother, Annie (as well as dog Milo). Although Devin's relationship with Tom, and Erin was interesting, this was however much more interesting. The fact that Annie wanted nothing to do with Devin, even though Mike would wave at him added drama straight away, showing that this wouldn't be an easily started relationship. It did however develop brilliantly, with some really interesting points, as well as some emotional, and was probably the most interesting part of this story.

Final Verdict

This was a fun read, with great characterisations, as well as brilliant emotion, and interesting mystery. It was however missing the wow factor that I expect from a Stephen King novel, but it was still very good for the type of story it was. I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves books with great character depth, with a hint of mystery, but otherwise unless you can get this for the right price, you probably wouldn't be missing much.

Rating: 3.5/5

13 Comments Refresh
Posted by Arkhamc1tizen

I thought it would be better.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

Cool review, I was hoping for a kind of Something Wicked This Way Comes vibe to this book

Posted by johnkmccubbin91

@arkhamc1tizen: Yeah so was I. Read much worse though.

@jonny_anonymous: Yeah a few people have been saying that. It wasn't a bad book, but lost out on the spooky side.

Edited by Xanni15

Honestly, I think this is a book that King just pumped out quite easily, not expecting much. His contract or quota for books written is pretty big, Joyland is more of a filler novel while he worked on larger projects. that being said, the fact that it is more of a filler novel yet still is better than most other books some authors put out is impressive. When King is on, there's few (or none) better.

Excellent review, I think you summarized it perfectly.

Posted by johnkmccubbin91

@xanni15: Yeah it certainly felt like that, and being from a smaller publisher expected. Yeah it is much better than most other writers currents stuff, and when he's good he's hard to beat.

Thanks, and I'm glad I did.

Posted by Cyclops4President

@johnkmccubbin91 Great review. I am probably not going to read this but you did an excellent job providing me enough context to feel what the book was trying to convey.

Posted by johnkmccubbin91

@cyclops4president: No problem, it's not for everyone, and isn't as good as most of King's stuff. Thanks for checking the nice comments as well.

Posted by broo1232

Great review. I've not read anything by Stephen King although I may try something, but still great review.

Posted by johnkmccubbin91

@broo1232: Thanks. If you are I'd highly recommend the likes of Dark Tower series (if you prefer fantasy), The Shinning, IT, and Carrie if you like horror, and Different Seasons, Green Mile, and 11/22/63 if you prefer more realistic gritty stories, though I wouldn't recommend starting with this as it wouldn't give you a fair look at what he can do as a writer.

Posted by broo1232

@johnkmccubbin91: Thanks for the recommendations, and will see what happens with money.

Posted by johnkmccubbin91

@broo1232: No problem, and if you need any more advice on Stephen King books don't hesitate to ask.

Posted by broo1232
Edited by johnkmccubbin91