Devin is 21 and in love. He’s about to finish college and Joyland is the perfect place for a summer before his life really starts. Joyland is as carny as it comes and upon getting hired Devin learns that it harbors a few secrets of its own. The legend of Linda Gray sparks something in Devin and he hopes to be one of the lucky patrons who see her ghost haunting the only dark ride Joyland offers. In a summer he hopes is endless, Devin learns the amusement park game, meets new friends, and is never far behind the not quite cold trail of the Linda Gray murder.
The carny atmosphere that King weaves in this story is rich in character and tradition. It is apparent that he has done research. I felt fully immersed and quickly picked up “the Talk” that only carny from carny, someone born into a carny family, truly knows. King also gave an authentic feel to the 1970’s era, using music and description of clothing.
This book is a slow burn. There is not a whole lot of action or much going on until close to 80% through. But King keeps the reader interested with in depth character development and he takes his time building the Joyland lore, breaking of tidbits at just the right intervals leaving the reader hanging on for a little more. Once the story picks up it really picks up and by then you are so invested in the characters that what happens to them matters and it gives you no chance to put the book down. The reader has to know what happens.
Where I was just so-so interested in about 70% of the book, I loved the last quarter so much that everything else was totally worth it. The build up made sense. The great pains taken in building Joyland to what it became was vital to the plot. I give this one a 4 out of 5. The ending is worth the entire book.