Reviewed by Jocelyn Pearce for TeensReadToo.com
Apparently, JOKER is the classic story of HAMLET, torn to pieces, set in modern-day Australia, and stuck back together again. Having never read HAMLET, I can't say anything about JOKER 's relationship to that story, but I can definitely say that it is a brilliant novel.
It's the real story of Matt, a teenage boy with problems like any other, and the story of Joker, one that blurs the lines of fact and fiction. Joker drives Matt to do things he would not normally do, to say things he would not normally say, to eventually throw away his life as a popular, athletic high school student with a great girlfriend and great friends. Perhaps the change came when Ray, his best friend, died in a fire; even if Ray's murder wasn't the cause of the change in Matt, it couldn't have helped.
Now Matt is never alone; he always has Joker, though it is never clear who or what Joker is, or if he is a figment of Matt's imagination or if he is real, or maybe even another part of Matt himself.
This is a beautifully written, at times disturbing, and certainly moving story. Reminiscent of a darker Francesca Lia Block, Ranulfo follows Matt as he destroys his life, runs away, and eventually returns, seeing all the possibilities of what could lie ahead of him. Readers looking for straightforward, clear, easy to follow, black-and-white stories will not find that in JOKER, but anyone looking for fantastic writing, realistic characters, and a story that's not so easily pulled apart will love this novel.