I just finished reading this novel published in 2013 by the world-famous author Stephen King; the story is told by a first person narrator in his teens, Devin Jones, year 1973. He takes a summer job at Joyland Amusement Park, in North Carolina, and he will experience things that he will never forget for the rest of his life.
Every day, when he walks from Mrs. Shoplaw’s Beachside Accomodations, where he lodges, to Joyland, where he works, he sees a little boy in a wheelchair and his mother having breakfast outside their house. His friendship with these two will be the main theme of the entire story. He also makes several friends at the amusement park.
Inside Joyland there is a Horror House where, some years earlier, a girl had been murdered, no one knows by who, and the ghost still haunts the ride. Tom, Gavin’s good friend, one day actually sees the ghost, and they all become interested in the murder, finding pictures and articles. They will find out that Mike, the little boy in the wheelchair, has some incredible powers, and he will be fundamental to solve the case.
Joyland is a beautiful touching and mystic novel, and the themes that King analyzes are several: from the friendship, to the youth and their problems. But this is also a thriller, and you just can’t imagine how it ends until you finish the book.
It’s like the narrator is telling about his memories of that time: the friends he knew at that time, that will remain by his side for the rest of his life, the touching story of Mike, that in spite of the fact that he has huge physical problems, is always smiling and positive until the end and how it is to work in an amusement park, all the different people you meet every day and the experiences you gain.
King revealed during an interview that the novel grew from a single image he had had for 20 years of a boy in a wheelchair flying a kite on a beach. He also said that one of the main sources of inspiration for the novel was an amusement park he had visited in Salem.
I think this book is divided in two different parts, because at first we get to know Devin, his friends and the world in which he lives, and it’s more like a novel, but from the middle of the book until the end, we have this amazing ghost story and we follow Devin while he understands little by little everything around this story, and manage to solve the case, so the second part is mostly a thriller – paranormal work.