Is this a good idea that I should be pursuing more consistently? Or a terrible idea that should never again see the light of day?It is known that I was already going to read any Stephen King book, and approximately on publication day. But a Stephen King book that is also about carnies? It’s like a match made in my heaven.

Joyland is a mish-mash of a coming-of-age story, a ghost story, and a hard-boiled mystery (hence the Hard Case Crime imprint), and of course I think that works; I’ve always thought King was the best fiction writer around, even though he mostly gets pigeonholed in horror[1] and people fail to think of him in a more general sense. Anyway, to rate it on each of its parts: the mystery was perhaps the weakest aspect, though I’m not a big mystery fan so I’m not sure that’s fair of me to judge. Perhaps the mystery is solvable, but it was not by me, and anyway, perhaps that should not really be a criterion? The ghost story was just the amount of spooky that you can get out of real life, or at least just the amount I’ve ever managed to eke out of real life, which is to say, not nearly enough. But strangely, this is not a criticism. Or at least, I criticize real life for this more than I criticize the book.

As for the coming of age, that is both mine and King’s bread and butter, and while I can’t say this is the best he’s ever handled it, it’s probably the best he’s handled it with college-aged characters. (Which, okay, the only comparison is Hearts in Atlantis, which was really good as well, but I don’t recall it being this poignant, introspective, or personal in scope.)

Also, if you care about such things, you could easily read it over the course of a single rainy afternoon.

[1] Which, to be clear, this book was not.

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