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CBR6 #15: Joyland by Stephen King

Although I love his massive epics like IT and The Stand, I think where Stephen King shines the most is in his shorter fiction. At 283 pages, Joyland is comparatively short, but it allows the story to unfold in a more focused way, and avoids some of the bloated tangents that--though I love them--can make the longer works drag a little.

Devon Jones gets his heart broken, and on a whim decides to leave Maine spend the summer of his 21st year working at a small amusement park in the south called Joyland. As he learns the ways of the carnies--figuring how how to speak their lingo, keep the "rubes" in their places, "wear the fur," and "sell fun"--he also discovers the dark secret of the park--the unsolved murder of a young woman in the haunted house years before, who rumors say haunts the ride. Devon spends the summer saving lives and waiting for the predictions of the park's local psychic to come true. When fall comes, a chill will fall across Joyland, and Devon will be lucky if can survive it.

This was a first person story, and the character of Devon had a wonderful, clear voice. He was wry, self-deprecating, and interesting, and his narration moved the plot along. The side characters were interesting and fairly well fleshed-out, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen to them. The ending was also much better than I expected, it being a King book and all ;)

I'd recommend this to any King fan, and even those who may think they don't like his work should try it. It's more murder mystery/coming-of-age tale than a horror book, despite the occasional ghostly visit or psychic flash.

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out www.cannonballread.com for more great book reviews.

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