I loved, loved this book! I need to read Stephen King more often. I am never disappointed in his books. He just has a way with words and his stories are consistently gripping yet thoughtful, and Joyland is another example of King’s writing prowess. I think the cover art is ugly, quite frankly, but don’t let that discourage you from the treasure of a story that lies between the unattractive jacket art.
Joyland is part mystery, part ghost story, and part coming-of-age story. It is the summer of 1973, and Devin Jones leaves the University of New Hampshire for his months off to work at Joyland, an amusement park in Heaven’s Bay, N.C., that claims to sell fun. His girlfriend Wendy has taken a job at Filene’s Basement in Boston for the summer, so he might as well earn some cash where he can.
Dev rents a room at Ms. Shoplaw’s place where he meets fellow housemates and Joyland employees, Erin and Tom, who become lifelong friends, while he nurtures his broken heart. Ms. Shoplaw shares with Dev an chilling story of the pretty, young Linda Gray who rode the horror house ride and never came out. Her boyfriend slit her throat in the darkness, threw her body to the side, and left the park without ever being discovered. There are rumors that Linda’s ghost even haunts the horror house ride.
They walk the beach every day to work, where Devin is assigned any number of jobs, from manning the rides to looking out for the “Hollywood Girls,” or the Joyland employees who strut around in green dresses and take pictures of customers for souvenirs. But most of the time he finds himself “wearing the fur,” or dressing up as Howie the dog, the park’s mascot, to entertain the “conies.” At Joyland he meets long time employee Lane hardy, who takes Dev under his wing and shows him the ropes.
On his walks to and from work, he passes a young boy in a wheelchair, who Dev befriends, near the boardwalk to their beach house. Mike, the sick boy, has a special gift and he even tells Dev that “she isn’t white,” even though neither Mike nor Dev know what this is supposed to mean.
Dev decides to take a year off college and stay through the off season where he investigates Linda Gray’s murder. Even though he doesn’t pinpoint the killer right away, he has been too obvious in his research, which ultimately puts his own life at risk.