Review: Joyland by Stephen King

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Features, The Disney Review

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Published on April 12, 2014 at 2:00 am with 4 Comments

Before you start wondering why in the world I’m reviewing a Stephen King book for The Disney Review, I’d ask you to hold all questions to the end. I promise there’s a Disney connection.

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Joyland is the first Stephen King novel that I’ve read all the way through. I’m not much of a horror fan and reading scary books keeps me up pretty late at night. I’ve always enjoyed King’s short stories and a lot of the articles that he’s written for magazines and websites. His piece on J.K. Rowling concerning the Harry Potter series is pretty stunning and it’s one of my favorite short works ever.

Joyland takes place in a North Carolina amusement park in 1973 (so, that’s sort of a connection). Joyland is presented as a small amusement park that’s been around for many years and, sadly, much larger parks like Walt Disney World and Carowinds are pulling away customers. We meet Devlin Jones who finds a summer job and makes his way from New England to a small town near Wilmington, NC to work at Joyland. My initial interest in the title was fueled by the facts that it was set in an amusement park and it’s in North Carolina but I soon found that I was drawn into the characters and wondering how King was going to bring his trademark brand of horror into the book. The cover (because you really can judge a book by its cover) would lead you to believe that it’s more of a crime-noir type of novel. It’s published by Hard Case Crime label which makes it feel reminiscent of pulp crime works of the early- to mid-twentieth century. I was a bit surprised because it’s more of a coming-of-age tale wrapped up with a little bit of mystery, intrigue and suspense. There are moments that are a little scary but nothing that will keep you up all night.

I really enjoyed reading King’s book, and not just because of the amusement park setting and carny lingo used in the title. Joyland still feels more like a carnival from the 1950s but you can see how it was making the transition from carnival to amusement park after the success of Walt Disney World. You know me, I really like to nitpick when I run into things about being parks. There were some moments where there was mention of corridors underneath the park that the employees could use, similar to Walt Disney World. It was difficult for me to believe that a small-time amusement park based in North Carolina would’ve spent the time, money and effort to build corridors underneath the park when it was such a major part of Walt Disney World. Disney World (I know, it should be Walt Disney World) is mentioned by a few of the main characters as an inspiration and as a reason for Joyland’s changes over the years (see, another Disney connection). One of the characters even mentions working at Disney World before working for Joyland, which cause more issues since the book is set in 1973 and we know that Walt Disney World didn’t open until 1971. Just nitpicking, I know.

Overall, I really loved Joyland and would recommend it highly. Even if you’re not a fan of horror stories, Joyland was less of a horror story and more about Devlin Jones learning to survive, get over heartbreak and live life as a 21 year-old, with a mix of supernatural thrown in. There is a murder-mystery aspect and there are enough clues in the story to keep you reading. I come back to my main point and that is about King being a fantastic author and I’m glad I finally took the chance to read him. He did an absolutely amazing job building the characters into people that I actually cared about and wanted to find happiness and survive. As far as books about theme parks go, King did a great job, in my opinion, of portraying what would’ve been like to be working amusement park in the 1970s.

Disneylanders Makeover!

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We reviewed Disneylanders by Kate Abbott a few months ago and both Jeff and I loved it. It also made my best books of 2013 list. The title was acquired by Orchard Hill Press and received a fantastic makeover with a new cover and a better format for the text.

It is a fantastic book that will touch Disney fans because it’s more than a first love story, but also a love letter about Disneyland. If you didn’t pick up a copy last year, this is a great time to add it to your library!


By George Taylor

The Disney Review is written and edited by Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor

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About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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  • eicarr

    I LOVED this book along with many from the “Hard Case” pulp series. Most Hard Case titles are dark & Film Nior like and take place around the 50′s. Although this one is set in 1973, it still pulls off that same vibe I love. But I actually borrowed the well produced audiobook cd from the library. Great summer read/listen!

  • Amy VandenBoogert

    I need to check this out. I’ve read almost all of Stephen King’s books (I’ve been a fan of his stuff since the 80s). Been looking for a new book to read so this is going to be next on my list.

  • Chernabog

    I listened to the audiobook of this and highly recommend it!

  • thjbriggs

    I’m an avid King reader, and actually bought the special hardbound edition of Joyland. I loved the story and characters. King’s books are often veiled coming of age stories. Something as seemingly horrifying as IT is about more than a killer clown. You should keep on reading his works! Also, you mentioned his piece on the Harry Potter series… do you know the name of the essay? I’d love to read it.