Devin Jones needs a summer job, so he finds himself in Joyland, an amusement park still holding on in an age when the bigger attractions threaten to take over the business. It’s a summer that changes his life, particularly when he meets a boy with a special power.
This book feels like a mix between “The Body” (found in Different Seasons, and if you’re still not sure what I’m talking about, Stand By Me) and anything he’s written with a psychic kid, which can be a long list. While there is a flair of the paranormal here, a spark that’s fairly subtle but recognized, this is much more like the books he writes in a more literary/contemporary vein.
This book tries to do a lot and succeeds at most of it. It’s a coming-of-age story for Dev, which it does exceptionally well. It blends in those subtle paranormal vibes I mentioned, which I personally enjoyed a lot based on the fact that it felt like a sprinkling of magic in a mundane world. And who doesn’t love Mike? He was a real show stealer. And then it tries to be a mystery, which… it’s okay. Just okay. The mystery feels shoehorned in for the benefit of it being published by Hard Case Crime, when at the end of the day, it works much better as a contemporary, summer read.
I remember when I started this book, I felt like the first hundred pages could’ve been trimmed. I still think there could’ve been less of that and more of when the story gets meaty, when we meet Annie and Mike. But in retrospect, it paints an entire pictures of Dev’s summer and why it impacted him. Why out of all the things in his life that he wants to tell us about, that summer is the most important. And it’s not all about Mike and Annie; rather it’s supposed to be about Dev. Many of those moments, like his “wearing the fur”, I wouldn’t trade for anything. But I think that King, who is a big advocate for editors and trimming a book, could’ve used someone with a heavier hand.
But I’m nitpicking a book that did something to me that I always have to note: it made me cry. Not even for the obvious reasons you’d think if you check out the book for yourself. Rather for the fact that King, horror master that he is, is also a master at heartwarming. People who don’t read him might be astounded to hear that, but if fans are looking at this review, you’ll know what I mean. Those moments that are so sweet and so honest that they pinch until it brings tears to your eyes. He did that to me. Again. So how much can I really complain?