22 May, 2011

Book Review: The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

***I haven't posted a book review in weeks. Over a month, really. I will start posting reviews more consistently!***

Title: The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin
Author: Josh Berk
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/YA/Mystery
Page Count: 248
Rating: 4.2 out of 5
Cover Rating: 3.9 out of 5. I like the way there are all three major characters on the front cover, and the way they're centered on the front. It could have been a bit more dynamic--a little less blue, maybe? A little something more in the background?--but it's a good cover.

Inside flap:
It was a dark, gloomy class field trip.
Because it was in a coal mine.
   Somewhere the star quarterback swore as he tumbled to the bottom of a mine shaft. Probably. Will Halpin could only guess about cursing. Because he's deaf, y'see? But here's the thing about murder: even if it's silent, it's still deadly.
   Being hefty, deaf, and the new guy in school isn't an easy ticket to popularity. At Carbon High, Will is put in the corner of every class. True, it's to help him read lips. And true, most treat him like a houseplant. But Will doesn't intend to stay stuck in any corner. And houseplants are privy to a lot of dirt.
   So when he teams up with the least popular guy to figure out what happened in that mine, Will discovers that the suspects are many and not so usual Was it the too-sexy-for-calculus math teacher? The crackpot bus driver? That scuzzy guy who talks to his fingers?
   Will and his side-geek are hardly Hardy Boys. But I wouldn't bet against them.
   Think Will can make it out of that corner?

My expectations: High. This was on the humor shelf of the library, and I love humor books. Plus, how could you go wrong with that kind of title?

I can happily say I wasn't disappointed.

About the book: This is the only book I can remember where the main character is deaf. I get the feeling I've read books with a deaf MC, but I can't recall them right now. The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin was intriguing just for that bit--besides personality/emotional weaknesses, relatively few characters seem to have serious physical disabilities. An added bonus was that the main character in this story, Will Halpin, had a great sense of humor and his snarky comments are sprinkled throughout the book.

The writing style was pretty much to the point, slightly dry at times (and by dry I mean humorous/sarcastic), and Josh Berk did a great job, I thought, of presenting what it might be like to be a teenager trying to make the change from a special school for deaf students to regular high school.

  • Plot:
I loved the fact it was based on a murder, but humorous. It isn't completely a mystery story, though, since it's not quite as driven by that as a regular whodunit, but it kept the plot moving nicely. Plenty of twists here and there, and the ending is great.

  • Characters:
Will Halpin is funny, smart, and unique; in addition to being deaf, he's overweight, which isn't something that a lot of YA books put into the picture. His sense of humor really keeps the tone of the book lighter than it would be with more somber characters, and I had to laugh at some of his remarks.

Devon Smiley was geeky, a bit weird, serious, and also rather funny. With a fascination and love of Hardy Boys, and an attraction toward danger--despite being the son of a police officer--he's a great companion to Will. Will doesn't want to have anything to do with him at first, and their friendship, with the usual bit of snark, forms over time.

Ebony. Despite being the ex-girlfriend of Will, they manage to get along when the circumstances require; and she becomes friends with Devon, too. She had strong beliefs when it came to the deaf community, and what it means to be deaf, and it was interesting to read about them in contrast to Will's trying to integrate himself into a "normal" school.

  • Setting/Elements:
I was intrigued by the history in the story, about the coal mines and the people who had shaped the town's past. The fact he had the same name as someone (also deaf) who was reported to have died in the same mines he visited on his field trip was an interesting turn.

Other: Language, references, description, some violence.

Do I recommend this book? Yes!

-----The Golden Eagle


Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for the review. I've never heard of this one.

I'd never believe this was a YA book from the cover. Looks MG. It shows (drumroll) you can't judge a book by the cover.

Sally said...

Hi Golden Eagle (and others reading this comment)! I'm going to be away for a period of time over the summer and am looking for a bunch of guest posts to keep Treble Clef lively during that time. Are you interested? If you are, email me at trebleclefblog@gmail.com and we can set up a date for you to post. Thanks!


Old Kitty said...

I want to read this book!!! Thank you so much for the review and the intro. Yay for Will and his gang of anti-heroes!! I love em already!!!
Take care

shelly said...

Great book review! Kudos to you and the author.

Brian said...

It really does sound pretty good, thanks for telling us.

RaShelle said...

I love the title. Awesome =D

Charles Gramlich said...

lol. sounds pretty good. I like the title.

Jules said...

Hey Eagle, wonderful review! Just wanted to stop by and say hello. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Ellie said...

Great review!

I've just noticed your 'location' on your profile. Earth. Tectonic plate. I cna't stop laughing. Too funny!

Ellie Garratt

Susan Fields said...

That does sounds great - I can't remember ever reading a book with a deaf mc, so just that would make it worth reading. And humor to boot - that's awesome!

....Petty Witter said...

Oh I love the simplicity of this cover.

Sounds like a fun read, thanks for the recommendation.

Zoraz/Dog Trainer In Training said...

Cool! Nice review. Never heard of this book before...Sounds interesting--worth a look into it.
I love comedy books about murders. XD Sounds weird, but that's me. :D

Susan Kane said...

This sounds like a great YA book, which I would love to read. I have nieces and nephews in that age group of interest--will pass it on to them. thanks for the review.

Heather said...

I've got to agree with you on the cover, not my favorite. But then I don't read a lot of humor books so I'm not a good judge.

Milo James Fowler said...

Sounds like a good one to me -- and something my students would enjoy.

Clarissa Draper said...

It looks like a Dr. Suess book and yet, the plot is so different and so interesting.

Michelle Merrill said...

Oh, a humor book? Awesome! Thanks for the review. And I agree with the cover. Not that I've read it, but it could use a little less blue. It's different, though, and I like that.

Emily Rose said...

This sounds like a good book!

laughingwolf said...

just *groan* at the title... makes me run from it!

The Golden Eagle said...

Theresa: Anytime!

It does look like MG, doesn't it? :P

Sally: Emailed you. ;)

Old Kitty: They're good characters.

Shelly: Thank you!

Brian: Anytime.

RaShelle: It fits the book.

Charles: Me, too.

Jules: Thank you! :)

Ellie: Thanks!

It's been there for a while . . . and it's true, at any rate. :D

Susan: I love humor books!

Tracy: You're very welcome! :)

Zoraz: Thanks!

It's an interesting twist from the usual sort of murder case.

Susan: I hope they enjoy it, then! :)

Heather: I try to treat all covers equal, regardless of genre; if I like it, I like it. If I don't, well . . . :P

Milo: It's a good book!

Clarissa: It does look a bit like Dr. Suess, doesn't it? The way the characters are drawn.

Michelle: It is different--and a lot of covers are similar to each other.

Emily: It is!

Laughingwolf: Too corny? :P