Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

This is one breeze of a read at only 283 pages and the prose pulsed like the heart of a young man in love. It reads like the narrator is sitting in front of you at a fireplace telling you the story and the cool prose is full of carny, as in carnival slang. For example, the Ferris Wheel is called a chump-hoister.

It is short on the usual Stephen King scares but don’t let that deter you. Two of my fave stories by him are Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Body, both novellas included in Different Seasons. Joyland‘s stylistics and narrative definitely belong in that same illustrious class. It is a nostalgic love story and it harkened me back to my first breakup. The second half gets spookier and a mystery surfaces. The scares are here but it’s tinged with a deep sense of melancholy. What totally came out of the left field and floored me is that I realized it is actually a beautiful coming-of-age story.