Joyland (King novel)

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Illustration of a shocked woman holding a camera and looking towards the viewer. The novel title appears at top-right.
First-edition cover
AuthorStephen King
Cover artistGlen Orbik
CountryUnited States
PublisherHard Case Crime
Publication date
June 4, 2013
Media typePrint (paperback)

Joyland is a novel by American writer Stephen King, published in 2013 by Hard Case Crime. It is King's second book for the imprint, following The Colorado Kid (2005). The first edition was released only in paperback, with the cover art created by Robert McGinnis and Glen Orbik. A limited hardcover edition followed a week later.[1][2] The novel was nominated for the 2014 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.[3]

Background information[edit]

The novel was first mentioned in passing in Neil Gaiman's interview with Stephen King for The Sunday Times, published on April 8, 2012,[4] and was officially announced on May 30, 2012.[5] The novel's cover art was revealed on September 20, 2012 by Entertainment Weekly.[6] In his interview on NPR's Fresh Air on May 28, 2013, King revealed that the novel grew from a single image he had had for 20 years of a boy in a wheelchair flying a Jesus kite on a beach.[7] King also notes that Canobie Lake Park, an amusement park in Salem, NH, was one of the main sources of inspiration for the novel.[7]

Limited edition[edit]

On May 13, 2013, Titan Books, which publishes the Hard Case Crime line of books, announced the publication of a limited hardcover edition of Joyland, to be released on June 11, 2013, one week after the initial paperback publication of the novel. The book was published as three different editions: a gift edition, limited to 1,500 copies; a numbered edition, limited to 724 copies and signed by the author; and a lettered edition, limited to 26 copies and signed by the author. Each iteration features cover art by Robert McGinnis, different from the paperback edition, as well as a map of the Joyland amusement park, created by Susan Hunt Yule.[8]


The novel is set at a North Carolina amusement park in 1973 and involves a carny who must confront the "legacy of a vicious murder and the fate of a dying child". Devin Jones, who takes a summer job at Joyland in North Carolina, is a student at the University of New Hampshire. Devin is told, during his interview by the resident fortune teller, that he will meet two children that summer. One is a girl with a red hat. The other is a boy with a dog. One of them has The Sight. After securing lodging for the summer at a rooming house and making friends with some of the other summer help, Jones finds that he has a talent for "wearing the fur", Joyland-talk for portraying Howie the Happy Hound, Joyland's mascot. He also works with and befriends one of the other longtime park employees—Lane Hardy. One day, he saves the aforementioned young girl in a red hat from choking on a park hot dog. The heroics earn him the trust and admiration of the park's owner.

Devin and his friends, Tom and Erin, learn that several years earlier a girl had been murdered in the haunted house, and her ghost still haunts the ride. Devin's friend, Tom, sees the ghost, but Devin does not and becomes interested in the murder. Erin assists him later, showing him pictures and articles, proving that this was only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, which had never been connected by the police.

At the end of the summer, Devin decides to take a year off from school and stay at the park while it is closed. He becomes close to a standoffish woman, Annie, and her sick son, Mike. Mike knows about the woman's ghost and has a dog, and Devin realizes he is the second child in the fortune teller's prediction. Devin is able to organize a private trip to Joyland for Mike; at the end of the trip, Mike's presence helps free the woman's ghost. That night, Devin loses his virginity to Annie.

Devin returns to his boarding house, which is preparing for an upcoming storm. He begins looking through the pictures again and suddenly realizes that the murderer is in fact Lane Hardy. Lane has guessed that Devin knows who he is, and so threatens to kill Annie and Mike unless Devin meets him at Joyland. Lane traps the two of them on the Ferris wheel in the middle of the storm and is about to kill Devin, when Annie shows up and fatally shoots Lane. Mike had been awakened by another ghost (of a park employee Devin had previously saved), who warned him about Lane.

Annie and Mike return to Chicago and Devin goes back to school. Mike dies later that spring.


The review aggregator website Book Marks reported that 36% of critics gave the book a "rave" review, while 50% of the critics expressed "positive" impressions, based on a sample of 14 reviews.[9]

Walter Kirn at The New York Times compared the novel to "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."[10] The Los Angeles Review of Books noted the novel's ephemeralness, but acknowledged its deeper appeal thanks to smaller flourishes such as characters that are well-drawn despite their familiarity, and thanks to the surprising level of attention paid to "carnie patois," in-group slang: "There is an almost delirious pleasure in reading the words, savoring them, and, after a certain point, getting used to them."[11] Joyland's departure from King's typical genre also earned praise. The Guardian called the novel "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."[12]


A TV series based on the novel is in development by Freeform.[13]


  1. ^ "About Joyland". 2012-05-30. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  2. ^ "Stephen King's Joyland - Limited Editions are now available for pre-order." Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  3. ^ "Nominees". The Edgars. 2014.
  4. ^ "Neil Gaiman's Journal: Popular Writers: A Stephen King interview". 2012-04-28. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  5. ^ "Joyland - Coming June 4th 2013". Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  6. ^ Strecker, Erin. "Stephen King 'Joyland' cover first look | Shelf Life |". Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  7. ^ a b "Stephen King On Growing Up, Believing In God And Getting Scared" (2013-05-28). Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  8. ^ Lilja, Hans-Ake (2013-05-13). "Lilja's Library Exclusive Joyland news!" Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  9. ^ "Joyland". Book Marks. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  10. ^ Kirn, Walter (2013-06-20). "Thrilled to Death: ‘Joyland,’ by Stephen King." Retrieved 2017-09-25.
  11. ^ Winter, Max (2013-07-30). "High Pulp: Stephen King’s 'Joyland.'" Los Angeles Review of Books ( Retrieved 2017-09-25.
  12. ^ Flood, Alison (2013-06-22). "Joyland by Stephen King – review." Retrieved 2017-09-25.
  13. ^ Michallon, Clémence (31 October 2018). "Stephen King novel Joyland to be turned into TV series". The Independent. Retrieved 13 March 2019.