A new coming-of-age novel is on the block, and it’s from a rather unlikely suspect…
First there was Holden Caulfield, the “catcher”, and then the “wallflower” Charlie, but now Stephen King, typically known for his ability to thrill and terrify, has brought us Devin Jones, a new teenage protagonist we are able to empathise with.
Devin recounts the story of his time working at Joyland, a funfair in North Carolina, where he has taken up a summer work placement. In his 20s, he is nursing a broken heart from a previous love, naively believing she will change her mind; but it is another girl who will be on his mind throughout the summer.
Linda Grey had been found dead just four years previously after entering the Horror House ride. Her ghost still looms, and Devin, intrigued by the mystery, begins to dig deeper, making some horrifying discoveries…
King himself stated that the image of a wheelchair-bound boy flying a kite on the beach was the inspiration for Joyland, and this image comes to life, as Devin forms two very special, yet different, bonds with the boy, Mike, and his mother, Annie.
We must not forget that King is not completely alien to “coming-of-age” writing, as his collection Different Seasons, to which Joyland beautifully alludes at times, contains elements of the genre. This novel nonetheless demonstrates King’s masterful versatility as a writer, as he effortlessly blends together horror, mystery and Bildungsroman in under 300 pages.
Although I’m not fully convinced by the efficacy of the novel’s funfair setting, and the fact that it is a little predictable, Joyland is undoubtedly a very gripping novel, in which Stephen King weaves his magic, giving us murder, the loss of innocence and heartbreak in a novel which is destined to become a cult classic.