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Joker is a retelling of Hamlet for teens. Well, stupid teens. Smarter teens will just read Hamlet, which really isn’t that hard to plow through, or any other book based on Hamlet that’s less patronizing than this one.
This version of Hamlet takes place in Australia and stars as protagonist Matt, an incredibly unlikeable angsty teen. The story traces Hamlet to a T, with some teenagey flourishes to make it more palatable for young readers, and a less tragic ending. The only addition is Joker – a driving force or byproduct of Matt’s mind that makes him super angsty in that oh-so-teen-angst way.
Yeah, there’s lots of teen angst here, and not much of it feels genuine. The book is terribly written, as it unsuccessfully panders and tries to relate to its teen audience. (For more realistic angst, read King Dork.)
The only good thing about this book is that it made me reevaluate Hamlet – was he really this whiney and irritating? If you think about it, maybe he was. He drove himself half-mad with obsession over his mom, drove his girlfriend to insanity and suicide by being such an asshole, and then destroyed his whole kingdom for Oedipal revenge. Man, Hamlet was a dick!
Actually, maybe that’s the worst thing about this book. By comparing Hamlet to the sort of two-dimensional asshole kid that would bully us in high school, you really lose respect for one of literature’s most interesting and complex characters.
Bottom Line: To read or not to read? (Don’t.)