Reading guide for Journal of a UFO Investigator by David J. Halperin

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Journal of a UFO Investigator

A Novel

by David J. Halperin

Journal of a UFO Investigator
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Feb 2011, 304 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Danny Shapiro is a sixteen-year-old living in 1960s Pennsylvania with a seriously ill mother and an embittered father. Alienated at home, he's just as isolated at school. His onetime pal Jeff has moved on to other friends and other interests; his onetime crush, Rosa, has vanished from his life. His main satisfaction is investigating UFO activity, which he's been tracking in a secret journal.

Danny has had his own run-in with a flying saucer at age thirteen—or so his journal claims. As he details this event, he slips into a fantasy world in which an apparently chance meeting in the Philadelphia Library connects him to a band of fellow teen investigators who go by the name of SSS, "The Super-Science Society." Soon his new friends—the witty, faintly sinister Julian and the seductive Rochelle—lead him to Miami in search of a long-lost book, a mysterious text once found beside the corpse of a murdered UFO researcher.

He's abandoned in the Miami Airport, captured by the shape-shifting "Three Men in Black." These men may or may not know what happened in Roswell, New Mexico; they may or may not know what the SSS knows. Either way, they're after Danny and the book too. A nighttime chase leads Danny to a flying saucer. Before he knows it, he's transported to a moonlit netherworld—alone and wounded, tormented by thirst, while insect-like "lake creatures" await the moment they'll work their will upon his helpless body.

Trapped in this desolation, Danny fathers a half-alien child who will save the planet from destruction, if only her mysterious illness can be healed. As he struggles to keep his daughter alive, his dark journey takes him through Jordan and Israel to the deserts of New Mexico. Along the way he discovers the frayed threads of time, the secrets of death, and the space where faith, myth, and love intersect.

Plot twists and vibrant fantasy make David Halperin's first novel a compelling exploration of adolescent selfhood and the stories we tell ourselves when real life is too painful to face. Told through the earnest voice of its protagonist and set against the backdrop of the turbulent sixties, Journal of a UFO Investigator weaves together large ideas and simple emotional truths that will resonate with all who read it.

  1. Danny encounters his first UFO at age thirteen. What is the significance of him seeing it at that particular age?

  2. What is Danny's attitude toward his mother? Does it change throughout the book?

  3. What role does Danny's religion play in his identity? In what ways does it help or limit him?

  4. Danny's journal pivots back and forth between his otherworldly fantasy and his day-to-day reality. Which world feels more real to you?

  5. In the UFO, Danny explores the notion of time. What does he learn and how is it useful to him?

  6. This book is very rooted in a particular historical era, referencing Israeli independence, the Kennedy assassination, the Six-Day War, etc. What parallels do you see between that time and our own? Could this story take place in the present?

  7. Many of the characters in this book prove to be untrustworthy. Are there any that you would trust?

  8. When he decides to go to Israel, Danny seems to willfully ignore the question of his mother's health. Was this decision the right one for him? Why or why not?

  9. What is the connection between Danny's search for UFOs and the Cuban Missile Crisis? Why did that event trigger his interest in becoming an investigator?

  11. As Danny unravels the truths and falsehoods of his journal, it becomes clear that most of this story takes place in his imagination. How did you feel about this revelation? Did it change the way you thought about the book?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Viking. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    North of Crazy
    by Neltje

    The remarkable life of a woman who carves her own singular path.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles

    Exquisitely rendered and morally complex--a brilliant work of historical fiction.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.