I truly can’t remember the last time I went to an amusement park. When I was younger, I took regular school trips to AstroWorld or Fiesta, Texas. If I’m being honest, I always had more fun at the latter, though. When it comes to amusement park rides, I’m a big old wuss. If you put me on a rollercoaster, you’re going to be on the end of a very expletive-laden rant when we get on the ground. And then you’ll owe me like five adult beverages for tricking me to get on it. Fair warning.
But I still liked going. There’s something that is fun about walking around and seeing those kinds of rides. We all know the food is actually terrible for you, but everyone still wants to eat it. And the people watching! These types of parks have been part of our society for a long time. And, honestly, I don’t see that ending any time soon.
I know most of us are still recovering from last year and the vacations that we didn’t get to take. I’ve been happy to see the boom in attendance that amusement parks of all kinds are currently experiencing. This is not just because the workers are able to have income flowing back in or that families are getting much needed time outside their houses. Let’s be honest: abandoned amusement parks are creepy as all get out. You can’t change my mind.
Below are some of the more interesting books out there that take place at an amusement park or carnival. They vary in genre, but you can expect to hear about rides and cotton candy while reading each one. Another side note is that this list is not as diverse as I normally prefer mine to be. There is a noticeable lack of authors of color writing about places like this. But it’s still a good list, so I’m confident you’ll find one that will be enjoyable and entertaining for you.
A Ride to Remember by Sharon Langley, Amy Nathan, and Floyd Cooper
I’m starting with this sweet nonfiction picture book that is about Langley herself. In 1963, she became the first African American child to ride the carousel at the desegregated Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. That same day, Dr. King made his Freedom March on Washington. This is a good book to read for both fun and a history lesson in what all the Civil Rights movement entailed, a lesson our country still needs even now.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Romance/Magical Realism
I’m sure this being here surprises no one, but just in case you haven’t read it yet, here we go. The circus always arrives without warning and is only available for viewing at night. While there is the glitz and glamour one would normally associate with a circus, there is also a behind the curtain rivalry between two older magicians and their proteges, who they set against each other. Despite this set up, the two fall in love and try to come up with a way to end this cycle that has been going on between the two older magicians for years.
Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn
Age: Children’s/Middle Grade
Arthur and Logan, two 13-year old boys, have taken it upon themselves to solve the murder that took place in Logan’s home years before his family lived there. This self-imposed task eventually leads them to a derelict amusement park that is supposed to be closed for season, but didn’t appear to get that memo.
Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
Mary Alice is having a bit of a crazy patch in life. This list includes, but is not limited to, restoring an amusement park that may or may not be housing the most powerful demons in the history of the world, a crooked politician, and dealing with a super secret government agency. When you add a possible romantic entanglement to that mix, it’ s a recipe for a wild ride indeed…I’m sorry for that. Please keep reading.
Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
Lou Parker is determined to have the best summer of her life. Who cares that she’s the giant dancing hot dog at Magic Castle Playground? Or that her crush, Nick, already has a girlfriend who totally doesn’t deserve him. Or that her best friend Seely is unnaturally peeved at her schemes to get close to Nick. Or that this will be last summer for Magic Castle Playground…maybe this will be harder than she first thought. I heard about this book for years on the Hey YA podcast, and when I picked it up, I was mad at myself that it took so long. Such a delightful read.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Genre: Classic Horror
Genre: YA and up
Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show rolls into Green Town, Illinois, a week before Halloween, bringing all kinds of creepy vibes with it. It promises eternal life, but instead brings death, and two boys on the brink of adulthood are about to find out what happens when you make wishes with no thought to what the cost might be. There’s a reason that this book is still touted as a classic in the horror genre, even almost 60 years later.
Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier
On paper, Wonderland seems like the perfect family trip for a fun summer day. That is, until a decaying body is left in the midway for all the workers to see. Vanessa Castro’s first day as a police chief in Seaside is taking on this murder as well as the disappearance of a teenage worker. As she follows the clues, she begins to unlock the mysteries surrounding Wonderland and finds out it may not be such a magical place after all.
Lethal Velocity by Lincoln Child (Previously Published as Utopia)
Ripe with holographic designs and cutting edge technology as part of the rides, Utopia appears to be the new measure against which all amusement parks are set. This also makes it a prime target for cyber criminals who infiltrate the park and manage to overtake the system. As long as their demands are met, the park’s guests will be fine. If not, then it will be another newspaper story. This one is an edge of your seat thriller, so be sure to carve out a few hours.
Zatanna: The Jewel of Gravesend by Alys Arden and Jacquelin De Leon (April 5, 2022)
Genre: Graphic Novel
Come on, just look at the cover: cotton candy and a ferris Wheel? Add in a girl who gives off witchy vibes, has a giant pet rabbit that she walks on a leash, and a house known as the Golden Elephant? You know you’re going to be in for a wild ride, and that’s before she takes on the quest for mystical jewels that reveal the truth about her family’s legacy and lays the pathway for their possible future.
Cirque Berserk by Jessica Guess
Best friends Sam and Rochelle, along with a few of their friends, decide to break away from their “boring” senior trip and visit the abandoned Cirque Berserk where, 30 years prior, a massacre took place. Legend has it that the fairgrounds are still haunted, so of course they decide to go check out the ghosties, and, to one’s surprise, end up experiencing a night of terror. What did I say about abandoned amusement parks y’all? Creepy as hell.
I hope that some of these books have piqued your interest and enticed you to pick them up. Let us know over on social media what some of your favorite amusement park books and rides are!