Joyride by Jack Ketchum

First, I must express to the world that I cannot see this author’s name without thinking of Ash Ketchum from Pokémon.

Now, on to the actual novel. Let’s just say the Stephen King blurbs on covers have lost their effect on me, along with blurbs in general. Although, I don’t think that the one he used for Joyride was necessarily untrue. Yes, you could easily finish it in a night. It reads easily, doesn’t have dry patches, and is short. But will I remember this book in a year? Probably not. There just wasn’t anything memorable or new to it. Not a terrible thing. I mean, I’d rather read something like this than something I don’t like at all or struggle to stay awake for. The characters weren’t flat, but also not unique enough for me to fall in love with them. I didn’t connect to any of them as much as I wanted to. And there were no surprises. Nothing really wrong with that either, just not what I generally prefer in a novel. There may be readers out there who love this book, and I honestly wouldn’t have any arguments with them. It just didn’t get my tensions high or spur any emotions in me. Perhaps my expectations affected my overall impression, as it often does when I go into movies (I still feel underwhelmed by Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).

What I appreciated most was the psycho, Wayne. This is mostly because he was an incredibly realistic killer in comparison with some of the others we’ve read about. The infatuation and desire with killing and sexual connection he had to it matches up with a lot more real-life serial killers than those like Hannibal Lecter or whatever his name was from The Sculptor. I actually thought that him wanting to murder and being inspired by a couple that just wanted to get rid of an abusive husband was an interesting premise at first, one that carried many possibilities. Another advantage was the pacing. In a story that didn’t have a lot of the substance I was looking for, it was important that it didn’t slow down or drag at any point. Luckily, at only about 250 pages, Joyride did not have stale moments. If it had, I’d likely have a lot more negative feelings about it than I do now.

Some of the parallels appear convenient, though. For example, how Lt. Rule happened to care about Ann, who used to have an abusive husband as well. This was too similar to Carole’s situation with Howard. That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of abusive husbands out there, but it did bother me that that was what fueled Rule’s motivation to solve the case. It seemed both easy and annoying. In a job like Rule’s, you’d think he’d be prompted to solve this case because he was human, and not because of his own circumstances.

Overall, I appreciated how close to real serial killers this novel came, though I don’t know if real life would have an ending that wrapped up in the same way.

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2 thoughts on “Joyride by Jack Ketchum

  1. Seeing as you can’t hear “Ketchum” without thinking of Pokemon, I cannot hear “Ketchum” and not thing of some good ol’ Heinz ketchup. Must be the Pittsburgher in me.

    I also felt underwhelmed by Joyride. For me, Wayne didn’t really get into his “psycho” character until about halfway through the book after he shot the college student. I thought the connection Wayne made with Lee and Carole was a little far-fetched, and then he ends up taking the hit for Howard’s death anyway. It was an interesting dynamic, but ended up falling flat for me. I wanted Wayne to have more motivation, but I guess that’s just how life is sometimes, like you say. Sometimes it’s realistic to not have an answer or live without any rhyme or reason. Though, I do think that’s why we, as humans, read books in the first place. To sometimes escape from realism and experience something more than what we’d get out of real life.

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  2. I’m glad you mention the pacing. I think that’s one of the main reasons I can say that I felt the book was overall just average instead of bad. It never slowed down, so the quick read was even quicker. I’m sure for people who love fast paced stories that don’t need really memorable characters, this book was great. That’s not what I enjoy reading. But I totally agree, in a year I won’t remember this book in particular. It wasn’t bad enough for me to cringe at any future mention of it, and it didn’t have anything unique or unusual elements that I will recall.

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