Wednesday, July 31, 2013

No joy in this melancholy memoir

I don’t usually read Stephen King novels, because they scare the crap out of me. Seriously. I’m kind of like Joey in that Friends episode where he puts books in the freezer when they begin to overwhelm him. I’ve read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and it was okay (I had issues with it, but no fear factor). As a teen I read Pet Sematary, and it took FOREVER, because I had to do the Joey-equivalent: I kept stopping to clear my head of the suspense and fear, then restarting because it was too good to just quit altogether. When Joyland was announced, it was billed as a non-horror mystery novel with potential teen or new adult appeal. Cool. That sounded like something I’d enjoy.

Joyland is written in the style of a fictional memoir of a long-ago year. The narrator is Dev Jones, a 60-year-old editor of trade magazines who once dreamed of being an acclaimed author. Speaking directly to the audience, Dev takes us back to 1973, the most melancholy – and eventful - year of his life. That year 21-year-old Dev suffered his first ever broken heart, moved to the beach, sold fun for a season, wore the fur, became a hero (twice), lost his virginity, and solved a cold case serial murder.

King’s storytelling is masterful, and the book absolutely flows. It’s not a thriller or even much of a mystery, but the characters are well-drawn and interesting. The memoir-style of the novel did detract from the tension and suspense of the story, as characters mentioned in 1973 are referenced by the older Dev in their later years, letting me know that they were not victims of the serial killer and I could relax about their welfare. Additionally, the meandering in and out of the story by 60-year-old Dev was a bit distracting for me. I liked getting into the 1973 mood and atmosphere, and didn’t appreciate being pulled out of it with more modern references to Dev’s current life, even if the transitions were smooth and well done.

Overall I recommend this book, but to adults, not teens. Not because of the content or language, though that would put this book on an older teen level, but because it would take an unusual teen to get into this coming-of-age reminiscence. One thing is for certain, don’t judge this book by its cover and delve into it expecting something more salacious. It is a good story, though, and I enjoyed it.

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