Joyland by Stephen King

77%

80 Critic Reviews

Stephen King shows the reader the innocence of youth, but he also illustrates the nastiness of the world. People desire to be safe and protected. They look to the amusement park as a means of escape from reality.
-Blog Critics

Synopsis

Book by King, Stephen (1947- )
 

About Stephen King

See more books from this Author
Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine in 1947, the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. He made his first professional short story sale in 1967 to Startling Mystery Stories. In the fall of 1973, he began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels. In the spring of 1973, Doubleday & Co., accepted the novel Carrie for publication, providing him the means to leave teaching and write full-time. He has since published over 50 books and has become one of the world's most successful writers.Stephen lives in Maine and Florida with his wife, novelist Tabitha King. They are regular contributors to a number of charities including many libraries and have been honored locally for their philanthropic activities.
 
Published June 6, 2013 by Random. 293 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Horror, History. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Jun 23 2013
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Joyland
All: 80 | Positive: 59 | Negative: 21

Kirkus

Excellent
on Oct 17 2013

A satisfyingly warped yarn, kissing cousins of Blue Velvet. Readers may be inclined to stay off the Tilt-a-Whirl for a while after diving into these pages.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Walter Kirn on Jun 20 2013

The novel is like a plump wad of cotton candy; it fills the mouth with fluffy sweetness that quickly dissolves when the reader starts to chew. That’s by design.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Alison Flood on Jun 22 2013

Joyland is a far gentler, deeper, more thoughtful book than the one it masquerades as. More a coming-of-age mystery than a horror-filled thriller, it's closer to the tone of King's short story "The Body"...than it is to the author's real forays into horror, and all the more intriguing for it.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by M John Harrison on Jun 12 2013

We assume that King is offering this with a wink and a nudge while he prepares for Jones some rite of passage as harshly lit and brightly coloured as the cover of the book. Not so.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Alison Flood on Jun 22 2013

Joyland is a far gentler, deeper, more thoughtful book than the one it masquerades as. More a coming-of-age mystery than a horror-filled thriller, it's closer to the tone of King's short story "The Body"...

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by M John Harrison on Jun 12 2013

If it isn't quite the stripped‑down tale of crime we associate with Westlake or Block, Joyland is endearingly compact – perhaps a quarter the length of a typical King – and immediately readable.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Apr 08 2013

...brings his usual finesse to this tale’s mystery elements, and makes Dev’s handling of them crucial to the novel’s bigger coming-of-age story, in which Dev adapts to the carny life and finds true romance.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Bruce G. Smith on Jan 04 2014

Stephen King shows the reader the innocence of youth, but he also illustrates the nastiness of the world. People desire to be safe and protected. They look to the amusement park as a means of escape from reality.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Bill Sherman on Jul 06 2013

I pretty much knew who the killer was in this book long before Devin did, but the mechanics of how he figures it all out were sharply constructed.

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WSJ online

Good
on May 31 2013

Devin Jones uncovers the secrets of Horror House, but during his Joyland apprenticeship he also learns something grander: "Life is not always a [rigged] game. Sometimes the prizes are real. Sometimes they're precious."

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Examiner

Above average
Reviewed by David Finniss on Jan 08 2014

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.

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Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by Sandra Cruz on Jul 16 2013

This combination crime/suspense novel and coming of age story is Stephen King at his best...It is definitely a must read for any King fan who appreciates his broad spectrum of work.

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Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by Josef Hernandez on Jun 18 2013

Even the happiest of places has a darkness that looms underneath and “Joyland” drives this point home. This book is highly recommended and shows the author in complete mastery of his craft.

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Financial Times

Above average
Reviewed by Christopher Fowler on Jul 05 2013

King’s innately decent nature stymies any hope of gathering darkness. More problematically, a handful of pop-cultural references are not enough to provide a sense of period.

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Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on Jun 01 2014

Even if you have never read a book by Stephen King, for whatever reason, you simply must put JOYLAND at the top of this summer’s reading list.

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by David Ulin on Jun 06 2013

...what makes King resonate for me is the detail work, the way he can get inside the most mundane situation and animate it, revealing in the process something of how we live.

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AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Tasha Robinson on Jun 03 2013

...it’s yet another example of a skilled writer finding new ways to play with his favorite toys.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by ROBERT J. WIERSEMA on Jun 28 2013

Joyland is a small marvel of a book, a novel of loss and heartbreak, of growth and discovery, a book that combines a coming-of-age story with a mystery, supernatural elements with keen human intimacy...

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Darren Franich on Jun 12 2013

A nifty but out-of-nowhere climax suggests that Joyland is really an overgrown short story. Yet the book also features some of King's most graceful writing...Joyland is a relatively straightforward story of a young man's adventure, but it's written in the complicated voice of a much older man's memory...

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Christian Science Monitor

Above average
Reviewed by Randy Dotinga on Jun 10 2013

You might want to put Stephen King in the category of mask-wearers. We think of him as a horror author dedicated to scaring us silly, but strip away all the mayhem and you'll find a writer who has a fine handle on humanity.

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USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Brian Truitt on Jun 03 2013

...it's the coming-of-age storytelling and a young man's roller-coaster of a summer that make Joyland a prize worth all your tokens and skeeball tickets.

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The Maine Edge

Excellent
Reviewed by Allen Adams on Jun 05 2013

“Joyland” is the sort of book that defies single-genre quantification. Is it a mystery story? Is it a ghost story? Is it a coming-of-age story? It is all of these things and more.

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Pajiba

Above average
Reviewed by loulamac on Sep 04 2013

The solving of the ghost story/murder mystery is secondary to the emotional journey our young hero goes on, and if I have any criticism it’s that the revelation of the identity of the killer and the final showdown are a bit clunky, but only by King’s stratospherically high standards.

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Tampa Bay Times

Above average
Reviewed by Sean Daly on Aug 06 2013

I'm not saying Joyland is King's best. I'm not saying Joyland is his savviest writing. But this story of a broken heart, a summer job and a beach amusement park — infused with ghosts, killers and a boy with "the sight" — is lovingly streamlined. It starts strong, ends stronger.

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About.com

Above average
Reviewed by John M. Formy-Duval on Jun 01 2014

King has created a genuine world with nods to real small towns in the area. This world contains plausible horror and joy. Everything that happens could happen; nothing seems out of the ordinary, even the appearance of Linda Gray's ghost or those who have second sight. The carnival and its lingo add a basis of reality.

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Look At OKC

Above average
Reviewed by Betty Lytle on Jun 23 2013

This is a coming-of-age story with a touch of the supernatural and a bit of murder. It's a very human story with no scary monsters under the bed.

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The Washington Post

Good
Reviewed by Bill Sheehan on Jun 02 2013

The melodramatic aspects of the story are great fun, but the real strength of “Joyland” stems from King’s ability to connect with his characters directly and viscerally. It’s that emotional bond that marks the difference between books that merely entertain and books that matter in a fundamental way.

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Seattle PI

Above average
Reviewed by BLOGCRITICS.ORG on Jul 05 2013

I pretty much knew who the killer was in this book long before Devin did, but the mechanics of how he figures it all out were sharply constructed.

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Jacksonville.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Richard Klinzman on Aug 11 2013

This is Stephen King at his emotional best. It is very much in the style of “The Body,”...No horror, no blood and guts, just the sentimental nostalgia before life puts us on a path to adulthood. The whodunit part is not really center stage of the plot, but the denouement is terrific.

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Scotsman.com

Above average
on Jun 01 2014

...as for Joyland, King’s a one-minute egg. A softy. You won’t gag in horror, or shriek in terror, but come the last few pages, you might just shed a tear.

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Chamber Four

Below average
Reviewed by Nico Vreeland on Jun 10 2013

...even though this is my first first-hand experience with King, I think this book fits his reputation. It’s not the work of a great writer, but it’s satisfying in a simple way that I expect from a good pulp writer. I won’t remember it next week, but it made for a pretty fun afternoon read.

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Lit Reactor

Good
Reviewed by RICHARD THOMAS on Jun 27 2013

Take Joyland to the beach, or curl up on the couch and fall into the year, the time and place, and let Stephen King do what he does best—tell a great story.

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Geeks of Doom

Excellent
Reviewed by The Geeks of Doom on Jul 15 2013

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The pace was fantastic and the story flowed well. It is an easy read that keeps you engrossed from the first page to the last!

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Fiction Writers Review

Above average
Reviewed by JORDAN MILLNER on Jul 26 2013

The thrills do feel predictable in the end, and in that regard echo some Y.A. horror clichés. But Joyland, like the attractions that populate it, is more enjoyable for the ride than the destination.

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Huffington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Alice Charles on May 27 2013

I found the ending strangely anti-climatic and somewhat of a cheat, and I was left curiously unmoved. I could have done without the gratuitous gore at the end and the frequent use of the "c" word.

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Annenberg Digital News

Good
Reviewed by Kara Prior on Jun 18 2013

This book is a great summer read. It has suspense, slight romance and a vintage-y summer vibe, perfect for passing time on a flight or lounging at the beach.

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Broad Street Review

Above average
Reviewed by TERRI KIRBY ERICKSON on Sep 17 2013

King is a natural-born storyteller, and by creating characters so true to life he makes it easy for us to suspend our disbelief about the macabre events that occur around them. I’ve long been a pushover for his powerfully nostalgic narratives...

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Digital Journal

Above average
Reviewed by TIMOTHY WHITT on Oct 12 2013

The book like an amusement park is full of different emotional rides from a first love, to a summer fling, to good friends who come and go, to the loss of innocence and the emergence of adulthood.

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Alternative Magazine Online

Good
Reviewed by Marty Mulrooney on Jun 04 2013

Joyland is pulpy crime fiction with more than a touch of class...Step right up! Joyland is an absolute joy to read – pardon the pun – and the perfect summer read.

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Arts Sarasota

Above average
Reviewed by Susan Rife on Aug 30 2013

King's affection for the world of carnivals, circuses and amusement parks is evident in his careful treatment of the various denizens who populate Joyland, from a nonagenarian owner to the "carny from carny" guys who run the rides and operate the food stands.

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Den of Geek

Excellent
on Jun 01 2014

On the surface, it may be a murder mystery, it may be a horror, but deeper down, the novel is the examination of a place of magic that drowns out all the horror and disease of the real world once Devin, Mike, and Annie explore the midway.

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Vivid Scribe

Below average
Reviewed by Kate Krake on Jun 29 2013

Joyland is indeed a good read but I can’t say this is a Stephen King novel destined to stick with the reader like something of the likes of Misery or any of his other Great Works. It is though, a well-drawn and unique story that will undoubtedly please King fans...

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Fear Net

Good
Reviewed by Kevin Quigley on May 15 2013

It’s good to have a book like this now – simple, sweet, and not a little scary – to remind us that among the prequels and sequels, the epics and the TV miniseries, Stephen King can still spin one hell of a little yarn.

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AZ Central

Good
Reviewed by Brian Truitt on Jun 04 2013

There is a ghost story involved, dark tones and a villain with a serial-killing thirst — King does have that rep to uphold, after all. Yet it's the coming-of-age storytelling and a young man's roller-coaster of a summer that make Joyland a prize worth all your tokens and skeeball tickets.

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Star Pulse

Below average
Reviewed by Evan Crean on Jul 19 2013

Although King's introduction and explanation of carny vernacular are amusing throughout the book, the snark of his character's voice almost becomes too much at points. When it does become slightly obnoxious, thankfully it’s never for very long.

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Fayetteville Flyer

Good
Reviewed by Roger Barrett on Jun 05 2013

As a reader, Stephen King has been amusing me for my entire life, and Joyland is another page turner from the master.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by ROBERT J. WIERSEMA on Jun 21 2013

...it stands with such shorter King masterpieces as The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption as one of the writer’s finest works, a highlight in a career that has had so many.

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Yahoo! Voices

Good
Reviewed by Gil Wilson on Aug 07 2013

...with a little bit of "The Shining" mixed in with a little bit of "The Colorado Kid," Stephen King weaves a tale of murder, mystery and psychic powers in a way that only he can tell a story. This is a coming of age, human interest, horror, murder mystery that will have you laughing, crying and leaving the lights on at night.

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Luxury Reading

Excellent
Reviewed by Vera on Jul 31 2013

It was surprising to find such emotional depth within what was publicized as a straight out mystery novel. It is easy to connect with Devin as well as many of the secondary characters as King develops this descriptive, entertaining tale of personal growth and murder.

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Jenn's Bookshelves

Excellent
Reviewed by Jenn on Jun 14 2013

Reminiscent of King’s Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile, Joyland demonstrates once again just how gifted King is when it comes to crafting a truly brilliant and moving novel. Highly, highly recommended.

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Popcorn Reads

Good
Reviewed by MK on Jun 01 2013

If you like mystery, ghosts, horror, and a bit of heartwarming combined with a coming of age tale then I recommend this one wholeheartedly.

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Literary Exploration

Above average
Reviewed by MICHAEL KITTO on Jul 22 2013

As much as I enjoyed this book, I feel this book wasn’t marketed properly, this is not a noir style mystery and I don’t think it deserved to be put in the Hard-Case Crime series.

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Book Chatter

Below average
Reviewed by Ti on Jul 02 2013

Overall, it was an entertaining, fun read. I loved the amusement park lingo and the overall sense of place that King created but as crime fiction, there was little in the way of suspense and the resolution was rather anti-climactic.

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http://goodbooksandgoodwine.com

Above average
Reviewed by April on Oct 17 2013

In comparison to say, The Stand, no, Joyland is not all that scary. However there are fortune tellers and ghosts and SUSPENSE, especially toward the end. Also, amusement parks in the off-season are kind of scary...

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Under My Apple Tree

Good
Reviewed by Leslie on Sep 27 2013

Joyland is a coming of age tale with a decades old crime, a mystery, a little romance and a ghost...I’ll read almost anything Stephen King writes, but I especially enjoy his more subtle tales, like this one...

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My Bookish Ways

Excellent
on Jun 02 2013

...Joyland is NOT a miss. In fact, it’s probably one of the best of his I’ve read, ever. Joyland, coming in at just under 300 pages, is a poignant, beautifully told coming of age story, with a damn creepy murder mystery in the mix.

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Bookmunch

Above average
on Jun 01 2014

Not the usual King fare (if there is such a thing). An evenly paced, nostalgic hymn to a young man as yet unspoiled by the disappointments of life...Is it the book the cover promises? No. Is that a bad thing? Also no.

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Booking in Heels

Below average
on Jun 01 2014

Joyland is worth reading just for the atmosphere and the setting. Stephen King is a supremely talented author (although that's not news to any of us) and his prose is genuinely amazing. However, this does seem to be a little flat...

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The Guilded Earlobe

Above average
on Jun 01 2014

If you are looking for a Crime Fiction novel written by Stephen King, you may be disappointed, instead you get a Stephen King novel that includes a bit of crime fiction. While it doesn’t all work, what does work works beautifully.

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http://roofbeamreader.com

Good
on Jul 12 2013

The book was, really, a delight. It is sad, but hopeful; fantastic, but real; and current, but elegiac.

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King of the Nerds!!!

Good
Reviewed by Mike on Oct 23 2013

Joyland is a novel that only the Stephen King of the present day could have written and it stands as one of his strongest and most accessible works of fiction to date.

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Rivers I Have Known

Below average
Reviewed by Amritorupa Kanjilal on Jun 17 2013

I was looking for a spooky book to read on a rainy, overcast Saturday, and stayed up most of the night finishing Joyland. Being a Stephen King book, it is not bad. It is consistently not bad, but it isn’t great either.

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Savvy Verse & Wit

Good
Reviewed by SERENA on Aug 20 2013

King has brought to life the childlike joy of carnivals and amusement parks and brought in a dose of reality...Like IT, this will be on the coveted Best of King shelf and likely will be re-read.

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Suvudu

Good
Reviewed by Matt Staggs on Jul 02 2013

Devin and his friends became as real to me as any fictional characters can be. That’s the greatest compliment I can give any writer, and certainly one that King has earned many times over.

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Nashville Book Worm

Good
on Jul 24 2013

One of the most satisfying novels I’ve read in a long time and it only goes to show that King hasn’t lost that magic touch.

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Insatiable Book Sluts

Good
Reviewed by lucysfootball on Jun 08 2013

It’s a perfect summer book. It’s a book you can race through while going onto something else; it’s a book you won’t have to think too deeply about. But it’s a book that will stay with you.

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Mystery Maven Blog

Above average
Reviewed by Liz Nichols on Aug 10 2013

“Joyland” will appeal to readers of many genres and period pieces as it has elements of the romance, ghost story/paranormal, mystery, horror story, sick kid tear-jerker, and 70′s nostalgic story.

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A Work in Progress

Good
on Jun 04 2014

Joyland is yet another nicely atmospheric read, but one that doesn't just rely on atmosphere. He creates such a weird, wild (though not too much of either) world of amusement parks, already so unique, but adding a flavor all its own to the story.

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Kevin's Meandering Mind

Above average
Reviewed by dogtrax on Aug 16 2013

...King immerses the reader in the language and behind-the-scenes views of the carnival life, complete with the Talk...That kind of attention to detail gives the story a real hook, and allows King to use his considerable writing talents to the benefit of character development and story.

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Novel Heights

Good
on Aug 09 2013

Although the story is slow paced I still felt the need to rush through the pages wanting to find out more about the mystery at the heart of the story. If you like crime fiction but haven’t read any King before you should enjoy this but it’s not a great advert for many of his other books.

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Weirdmage's Reviews

Excellent
Reviewed by Weirdmage on Aug 05 2013

There's really not anything to complain about through the whole novel. This is certainly King's best recent novel, and I would also say that it is King at his absolute best.

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Bloody Disgusting

Good
Reviewed by Lonnie Nadler on Jul 22 2013

Joyland is a genuine, personal tale that explores the importance of love, loss, and death. Although it is being promoted as a pulp novel, it is far deeper than the surface lets on.

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Mental Foodie

Below average
on Jul 07 2013

...this is a ghost story. I don't know if I believe in ghosts or not (I haven't made up my mind). I do like a good ghost story - like, the Sixth Sense - but the ghosts in this story just seemed too convenient for the storyline.

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Bloody Disgusting

Above average
Reviewed by Ryan Daley on Jun 27 2013

From the opening pages, the first person voice is unmistakably King’s. Relying on old tropes like precognitive tweeners and repeated mantras (“I wore the fur”), he’s the same old cat he’s always been, but with even more ‘70s references.

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The Lone Writer

Below average
on Jun 13 2013

Was this King’s best? Ahem…No! Was it his worst? Definitely not. Chances are he published it by itself to give ode to HCC, a publisher that focuses on a genre King has a lot of respect for.

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Walker of Worlds

Good
Reviewed by Mark on Jun 10 2013

Joyland is an exceptional novel. Not only does King deliver an interesting murder-mystery that will keep you guessing, but does so without it obviously being one.

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Pulp Fiction Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Ron Fortier on Jul 08 2013

“Joyland” is sure to become be one of Stephen King’s most enduring tales. Spin the wheel and we’ll take a bet on that, even if we don’t win a kewpie doll.

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The Moon is a Dead World

Above average
on Aug 22 2013

...King does provide an amusing romp through the life of a carnival worker, and even if the novel is lacking in crime substance, it provides a good amount of characterization in other areas.

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Innsmouth Free Press

Good
on Jun 01 2013

Joyland is a page-turning whodunit. He drops plenty of hints, but hits you with a few twists and turns that will keep you from guessing before it is over. He hits all the right marks...

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https://www.geeknative.com

Good
Reviewed by Andrew Girdwood on Jun 04 2013

I’m reminded why I so greatly enjoy Stephen King. He’s earned his reputation and he uses it wisely. I sat back and enjoyed Joyland. I’m not saying that I let my guard down but I let the twists come to me. Liked it? Joyland is thoroughly recommended.

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Reader Rating for Joyland
84%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 3485 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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John Gothal 9 Aug 2013

Rated the book as 3.5 out of 5

Blanca Vides

Blanca Vides 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list