This haunting coming-of-age story (288 pages) was published in June of 2013 by Hard Case Crime. The book takes you to a 1970s beach-side amusement park. Melissa read Joyland and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

buy is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.



Stephen King

This novel is both eerie and bittersweet — don’t be frightened by the author’s name on the spine!

Although this story has the ideal elements for a King horror tale — a creepy carny, a haunted ride, a prescient fortune teller, and an unsolved murder — it’s really a heartfelt coming-of-age story. Surprisingly touching, it captures that breathless, aching feeling of summer, the sense of being on the brink of something that changes everything.

Devin, a college student with literary aspirations, takes a summer job at a run-down amusement park along the shore. Looking back as he tells us his story, he reflects that he had a ‘really bad case of the twenty-ones.’

While enduring the humiliation of his role as the costumed Howie the Happy Hound at the park, Devin develops an irresistible fascination with the Funhouse Killer, a mysterious figure who committed a murder four years before and was never brought to justice.

Devin also slowly finds himself becoming part of the community. He befriends a special young boy and his mother, connects with the other carnies, and grows up in ways he could never have anticipated.

This novel represents the best of King’s ability to create characters that feel like real people: vulnerable, flawed, good-intentioned, perhaps a little doomed. The tone is just right — not quite dread, but uneasiness, the way the air feels heavy just before a seething summer storm. You know something is coming, it might be frightening, and there’s nothing you can do about it but wait and hold on to come out the other side.

When you’re twenty-one, life is a roadmap. It’s only when you get to twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect you’ve been looking at the map upside down, and not until you’re forty are you entirely sure. — Stephen King

keep reading

Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got a stellar bakery in Madrid, pairing tea and classic British novels, a magical dragon boat, the dogs of Kars, Turkey, and more.
This story has the ideal elements for a King horror tale — a creepy carny, a haunted ride, a fortune teller, and an unsolved murder — it's really a coming-of-age story that captures that breathless ache of summer.
Imagine it: a day devoted to reading one great book. Squishy clothes, comfort food, and page after page of an utterly involving story. You can make it happen with just a little prep work; we'll show you how.

sharing is caring!

Wanna help us spread the word? If you like this page, please share with your friends.

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter

Join our Substack to get our FREE newsletter with podcast updates and behind-the-scenes info join in fun chats about books and travel.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
Sign up for our free Substack!
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.