I'd been waiting breathlessly (well, not breathlessly, but with some level of intensity comparable to physical reaction) for the tech services department to finish processing this book every since Josh Berk started promoting it on Twitter. I can report that it was worth the wait. First, there are just not enough books with this kind of male character. I know that you are about to tell me that most male characters in ya lit are kind of geeky--ya lit loves to loathe the popular crowd-- but that isn't what I mean. Will is the kind of character with a strong voice and a strong sense of self, despite a lot of strikes against him from the start. It is refreshing to read. Also, I love a good mystery. Will and Dev are my new favorite crime-fighting duo.
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Will Halpin decides to opt out of the political issues at his deaf school and go mainstream. At the mainstream school he will have to use his lipreading skills to get by, but he doesn't mind because his ability allows him to drop some eaves on other people's conversations. In the first week he finds himself in love with the most popular girl in school, but on the bottom run of the social ladder. By the second week a mysterious death of a student (in the very coal mine where one of Will's long lost relatives died) sparks an intensive investigation by Will and his only new friend at the school--the social pariah Devon.
The book is funny (Will's written observations of the silent world around him are hilarious, but when he combines with Devon it just gets better and better) and smart; it plays with narrative. The first week sets everything up for us so when the the book turns into a mystery in the second part it's not jarring. The pieces of the mystery come together quickly, but in a way that make sense for the characters. Putting the book down once you've picked it up is the hardest thing about reading it.
Though the main characters make a lot of references to the Hardy Boys, this is NOT a wholesome Hardy Boys read. There is an edge of the sharp reality of being a real american teenager underneath the cartoony cover that gives the book gravity.
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