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by Emily Schultz

Everyone can relate to the teenage summer: hours spent in listless anticipation of something better. Agonizingly dull days rolling into even duller nights, where it seems as though adulthood will never come, sex is so far away, and nothing exciting will ever happen. And then there is that other teenage summer, where hours flow by in a haze of commotion, anxiety, tension, and stimulation. Teens perched on adulthood watch as events spin out of their control, and nothing boring will ever happen again.

In her debut novel, Emily Schultz, an editor and the author of a collection of short stories, Black Coffee Night, takes the reader back in time to the mid-1980s in South Wakefield, a stand-in for every small Ontario town where nothing, and everything, seems to happen to the edgy teens trolling around searching for adventure. Joyland is the name of the town’s video arcade, where youthful energy poised for trouble whiles away hours in virtual safety.

With the arcade’s closing comes trouble for the novel’s protagonists – Tammy Lane, a curious adolescent, and her older brother Chris Lane, a more curious adolescent still, who’s hellbent on avenging his mortification at a recent party.

Like adolescence, the novel is self-consciously awkward: each chapter is named for a 1980s video game. Those of the Atari generation are sure to be amused. The narrative can be tough to follow as it mimics the jumpy pace of that alternate fantasyland, hopping back and forth from Tammy’s perspective to Chris’s in a stylized, if a touch anchorless, fashion. But the dialogue is fierce – at once punchy and unhurried, an accurate representation of the frenetic but often monotonous dance of teenagehood.

In the end, Joyland simply works. Though it is certainly not for every reader, anyone who, as an adolescent, attended one of those parties, or who had one of those summers, will be able to relate to this admirable debut.


Reviewer: Carrie Fiorillo

Publisher: ECW Press


Price: $24.95

Page Count: 296 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 1-55022-721-1

Released: April

Issue Date: 2006-7

Categories: Fiction: Novels

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