I’m late, late, late to reading this, but I just finished Stephen King’s JOYLAND. I guess I’m on a bit of a horror kick lately after Josh Malerman’s BIRD BOX, and honestly, I’m on the lookout for something equally as creepy to keep me up at night. But let’s get back to the amusement park, shall we?
I was in the middle of JOYLAND when the controversy broke regarding the mix up of King’s title, and a Canadian book by the same name published in 2006 from author Emily Shultz. If you were living on the moon during this period, here’s what happened: Shultz’s eBook popped onto Amazon quite some time ago, and did moderately well. But when King released only a paperback version of his own JOYLAND, people bought Shultz’s eBook by mistake, thinking it was King’s.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking….what??? Yes, apparently these poor unsuspecting readers don’t bother with author names or book covers or, well, reading, because they assumed the book was King’s latest and then complained that it wasn’t typical King fare.
Shultz is enjoying the mix-up however, and is detailing her purchases from the royalties gained through it, on a blog called: $pending the $tephen King Money! And why not? Good for her! It hasn’t made her super rich, but it’s a nice little bonus for an author who isn’t as well known as Mr. King. And if you’re thinking about writing a book with a famous title just to cash in on some possible future mistakes, don’t bother. It would probably never happen again in a million years. (If you’re really thinking about writing a book, get out there and write YOUR book!)
Anyway, let’s talk about JOYLAND by Stephen King. I’d like to call it his latest NA book, because his main character, Devon Jones, is a college student. But if he was trying to cash in on this new category, it only somewhat applies. (I don’t think that was his intention, anyway.)Yes, there is the angst of growing up, of losing a first love and finding another, and of searching for one’s place in the world. Devon Jones does all of that within the walls of this book, but as is typical of Stephen King, these are the elements that just flesh out the story, not the story itself. (Or, one could argue the opposite, of course. King’s novels are all character-driven….something I believe is essential to all of his work.)
So, Jones begins working a summer job at a mid-size amusement park called Joyland. He’s heartbroken because he’s just lost his first sweetheart, and he still has hopes of rekindling the relationship somewhere down the line. But he makes some good friends at the park, and it helps to ease the pain. It wouldn’t be a Stephen King book without something sinister, though, would it? Devon becomes involved with a terminally-ill child (who has a gift of foresight, maybe?), and his young mother, and along the way, discovers there is more to an old story about a murder at the park than he’d like to know.
This book had SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE GREEN MILE written all over it right from the start, and I wasn’t disappointed. I only wish the cover was a little less crime-fiction-esque so that I could recommend it to those readers willing to explore the gentler side of King when looking for books at the library.
What I love most about King’s writing are his characters. He could have the wildest setting, or the most bland, and yet his characters would become friends to the reader no matter what. He is the master of characterization, and I read not only to learn from him, but because I love how he weaves a tale like no other. I’m cracking the spine on MR. MERCEDES as we speak!