BookBrowse Reviews The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

by Josh Berk

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk X
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2010, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2011, 256 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Ellis Smith
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A part coming-of age-story, part mystery, and part social satire for young adults starring a winning Hardy Boys-goes-nerdy duo

Will Halpin, the central character in Josh Berk's debut novel The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, is a perfect example of an unreliable narrator for one simple reason: he's deaf. The reader literally hears only what Will hears - or more accurately, we only read what he lip-reads - and he misses words here and there. For instance, this is what Will lip-reads from his history teacher one day: "How did you (something something) the reading? Was there anything (something something) found interesting? Didn't any of you (something) the reading at all?" Will misses a lot. But Josh Berk does an amazing job of making Will immediately likeable anyway. He is witty, smart, self-deprecating in an endearing way, and he has just made the choice to switch from attending a deaf school to his local public school. The combination of these traits and the vulnerability of his situation makes us want to trust him. He is also brutally honest. And he shares his honesty readily by writing observations in his notebook and articulating the constant buzzing commentary that runs through his brain. He has opinions about everything - about his deaf school and its annoying politics, about his new mainstream public high school and its typical social hierarchy, about his family, his friends and mostly about himself. All of this makes it easy to root for Will - and to believe him - as he tries to assimilate into his new community and environment.

Despite himself, Will becomes good friends with the number one social outcast at the school, Devon Smiley, and when their class takes a field trip to a defunct mine - hysterically named Happy Memory Coal Mine - and the school's star quarterback mysteriously dies, Will and Devon become an unexpected detective team. Who killed the quarterback? There are plenty of suspects, and this Hardy Boys-goes-nerdy duo pledges to solve the crime. At the same time, Will is trying to solve an identity mystery of his own. Is he related to a miner who died in this same mine many years ago? And why has he never heard of him before?

Part coming-of age-story, part mystery, and part social satire, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin is a quirky, genre-bending story. Berk is especially adept at tackling the rarely talked about social and political issues inside the deaf community. And because he weaves these into the more overt social and political issues inside a typical teenage community, we are able to see those more "normalized" issues in a new light. Through Will's astute eyes and mind, Berk blows open teenage stereotypes, high school rules of hierarchy, and the too-often silent identity struggles all teens face.

Despite his challenges, Will is clearly a keen observer. And perhaps because of them he is a creative thinker. He is also - despite his sarcastic and relentless humor - an earnest guy. In the end, he solves the mystery of who killed the quarterback, as well as his the mystery of his own identity. And so it turns out that Will is, perhaps, the most reliable - and likeable - kind of narrator of all.

Recommended for ages 12 & up.

Reviewed by Tamara Ellis Smith

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in April 2010, and has been updated for the July 2011 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The History of The Hardy Boys

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, try these:

We have 7 read-alikes for The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Postcard
    The Postcard
    by Anne Berest
    Anne Berest's The Postcard — with an elegant translation from the French by Tina Cover &...
  • Book Jacket
    Elektra
    by Jennifer Saint
    Few cultures in history mastered the art of tragedy quite like the ancient Greeks. And very few ...
  • Book Jacket: Salvage This World
    Salvage This World
    by Michael Farris Smith
    In the near-future universe of Michael Farris Smith's Salvage This World, life-threatening ...
  • Book Jacket: Where Coyotes Howl
    Where Coyotes Howl
    by Sandra Dallas
    Where Coyotes Howl may appear to be a classically conventional historical novel — a wide-eyed ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The First Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
A remarkable and previously untold piece of American history—the secret plot to kill George Washington

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Little Italian Hotel
    by Phaedra Patrick

    Sunny, tender and brimming with charm, The Little Italian Hotel explores marriage, identity and reclaiming the present moment.

Win This Book
Win Girlfriend on Mars

30 Copies to Give Away!

A funny and poignant debut novel that skewers billionaire-funded space travel in a love story of interplanetary proportions.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y S M Back A I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.