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Novel Review: "Joyland" by Stephen King

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This book centers on Devin Jones, a young man who takes up a job working at a carnival after getting his heart broken by his first love. It ends up being something of a life changing experience for him as he forms new bonds and even contends with a nefarious killer.

My thoughts on this book are oddly similar to my thoughts on "The Wrestler". One of my favorite parts of this book is seeing the camaraderie between the various employees. There isn't any bearded lady or strongman, just run of the mill workers, but they have dynamic personalities that bounce well off each other. More than that, they are very tightly knit. They really look out for one another and it's incredibly charming.

They're all incredibly likable and it makes for a very easy read. Even the park's manager, who easily could have been made into a perpetually angry stereotype shows concern for his employees and makes their safety a priority.

Your mileage may vary on Devin. He's likable too, but you may find that it veers into Gary Stu territory. Everyone likes him, talks about how great a guy he is, and he even saves the lives of two people. This ends up making him something of a local celebrity as he makes headlines. It didn't bother me, but I could see some readers raising an eyebrow at how he is portrayed.

He does go through a definitive arc and he does grow over the course of the novel, so he is dynamic, if nothing else.

His relationship with Annie, a young woman who is mother to a dying child named Mike, was well done, but I wouldn't have minded seeing more of it. She doesn't show up until the second half of the novel. She's fleshed out, but could have used more page time. On the one hand, I think that the book's brevity is a strength (it's under 300 pages), but it does lead to wanting more, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

It does lead to some weird pacing as the murder mystery doesn't come to the forefront until the last third and the ghost is "dealt with" off page. Considering I enjoyed the character bits as much as I did, I can't really call it a weakness, but nevertheless, there it is.

With such strong characters and such a strong dynamic, it would stand to reason that we get some good banter, and we do. The book has a healthy does of humor and I think it adds to the enjoyment factor. Between you and me, I found this to be quite a bit funnier than "Double Feature", but shhh don't tell Owen.

The book also culminates in one of the biggest literary crowning moments of heartwarming I've come across. I dare you to read the section where they close the park to give Mike a day of fun and not feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It can't be done, I tell you.

Oh, and the dog lives, so hooray for that!

This is a book that lives or dies by the characters. If they didn't resonate as well as they did, I don't think this book would have worked nearly as well. Fortunately, they did, so subsequently, it did. It may not be a keep you on the edge of your seat page turner, but it was a fun read and I do recommend checking it out.

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