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Monday, August 23, 2010

Blindsided by Books: Review of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

Has anyone ever sent you a book to read and for whatever reason, you thought it just wouldn't be a good fit for you? But then you decided to give it a shot and ended up really enjoying it? Well this feature is dedicated to those books. They come along when you least expect it and end up blindsiding you with their awesomeness!

Today's pick-


Reading level:
Young Adult
Library Binding:
256 pages
Knopf Books for Young Readers (February 9, 2010)
Purchase: Amazon|Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Being a hefty, deaf newcomer almost makes Will Halpin the least popular guy at Coaler High. But when he befriends the only guy less popular than him, the dork-namic duo has the smarts and guts to figure out who knocked off the star quarterback. Will can’t hear what’s going on, but he’s a great observer. So, who did it? And why does that guy talk to his fingers? And will the beautiful girl ever notice him? (Okay, so Will’s interested in more than just murder . . .)

Those who prefer their heroes to be not-so-usual and with a side of wiseguy will gobble up this witty, geeks-rule debut.
Can an overweight, deaf sixteen-year old and a Hardy Boys aficionado help solve a murder mystery? You bet they can! The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin was a rip roaring good time. Filled with sarcastic humor, entertaining characters and a surprising amount of insight into deaf culture, politics and issues, this novel struck me with its refreshing perspective and kooky characters.

“Two choices. I can turn to the right into the dark and unknown or to the left into the dark and unknown. Of course, I can scamper back to safety. But instead, I sit, hunched, looking from right to left, from left to right. To the left there seems to be the tiniest sliver of light above an incline, while the right is pure blackness. And, just because that’s the kind of guy I am, I go for the black.”- page 204

Josh Berk infused an a great deal of humor into the story and I really appreciated his wry wit and hilarious one liners. Time and time again Will made me laugh. I love the way he nicknamed everyone who crossed his path, like “Jimmy Porkrinds” or the substitute teacher, “Mr. Tough Guy.”

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin really opened my eyes to the challenges that people with disabilities face. For instance, I never thought about the bell being “sound discriminatory” or how lip reading was something you couldn’t shut off when you wanted. This explanation really stuck with me in particular –

“It’s like watching TV while someone else works the remote. No, better yet: imagine yourself sitting in a room with a hundred TVs turned up loud while you whirl around on a Sit & Spin at a dizzying speed, trying to follow the plot.” – page 16

Though The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin did seem to slightly toe the line between middle-grade and YA for me, it definitely kept me entertained as an adult. Normally I don’t like text chat in books, but Will’s snarky sense of humor and Devon’s personality had me rapidly turning the pages with glee. The way this dynamic duo teamed up together as a ragtag “Chet” and “Frank” team from the Hardy Boys was priceless. As for Devon, he was by far my favorite character. How can you not love a kid who orchestrates elaborate sleuthing missions with fake glasses, beards and old-timey pistols! I never got tired of his manner of speaking either, especially when he would say things like “How does the day find you, my good man?”

I have to admit that initially I didn’t think this book would be a good fit for me at all. The combination of the somewhat awkward title and juvenile cover threw me off. When I found out that that The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin had won the YALSA Best Fiction Nominee for Young Adults (2010), well, I knew then I had to give it a real chance. Turns out, this was a classic case of don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover. I ended up reading all 250 pages in one sitting!

I’m excited to have discovered a new author with a unique voice and look forward to checking out Josh Berk’s future works.

Josh Berk is the author of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin (Knopf 2010) and a second comedy/mystery teen novel coming from Knopf in 2011. He has previously been a journalist, a poet, a playwright, and a guitarist (mostly in bands known for things other than fine guitar-playing). He is a librarian and lives in a cornfield in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with his family.
Visit the author's Official Website & Blog.

1 comment:

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Awesome review. I like the title/cover :)