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The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin Paperback – June 14, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 8 Up—Will Halpin has ditched his former "deaf school" and is now trying to merge into the auditory-able mainstream at Carbon High in eastern Pennsylvania. As the new, overweight kid who has to sit off to the side during classes so he can try to read the lips of both his teachers and his classmates, Will—no slouch when it comes to reading human reactions—quickly downsizes his social expectations and retreats back into the soundless cocoon of his own skull. Luckily for readers, it's darkly hilarious in there. That's this debut novel's most potent hook: the opportunity to spend some quality time inside the precociously perceptive and sardonically witty head of this ultimate outsider as he visually eavesdrops—and rips on—the sick subtleties of a typical high school's social order. What teens wouldn't want to have Will's skills as he, notebook in hand, monitors the school bus mirror and pieces together what all the cool kids are talking about? Most, Will discovers, as he deftly dissects personalities and devilishly deconstructs high school culture, are slavishly focused on being invited to an exclusive party being thrown by popular jock Pat. But when Pat dies during a field trip to a defunct coal mine, under suspicious circumstances, the story morphs into an engaging mystery as Will reluctantly accepts the unsettlingly friendly overtures of a quirky classmate bent on enlisting him as a partner in some amateur sleuthing. A coming-of-age mash-up of satire, realistic fiction, mystery, and ill-fated teen romance, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin is a genre-bending breakthrough that teens are going to love.—Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Will Halpin is the new kid at school. This is a tough situation even in the best of circumstances, but Will is also deaf, and his self-image isn’t great (he compares his body to a “sedentary manatee”). Having left a school for the deaf, Will survives at his first public school with a lot of lip-reading, texting, and the friendship of another social outcast, Devon Smiley. Together, the two students become a duo of misfit Hardy Boys who investigate the death of a classmate while on a field trip to the Happy Memory Coal Mine. The mystery is not the strong suit here; it’s the goofiness of these two unexpected heroes and their take on high school that carries the novel. The school bus, for instance, has “a directly rising slope of coolness from the front . . . to the back. . . . If you keep going, you’d fly out the back . . . and land in the cars belonging to the kids far too cool to ever set foot on a bus.” A humorous first novel from an author to watch. Grades 6-9. --Cindy Dobrez --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 820L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (June 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375846255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375846250
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dark Days reminded me of reading Three Investigators books when I was a kid... those were my poison, not the Hardy Boys (which are oft alluded too in DDoHH). It has all the spills and thrills of any mystery a kid reads by night under the covers with a flashlight because it's just not possible to stop reading until you're done, but it's a contemporary story at the same time, and it transcends a formulaic mystery with characters and quirkiness and subplots that make it feel more classic.

The hero, Will Halpin (Hamburger is his IM name) is the hearing-impaired, round-bellied progeny of Holden Caulfield and Harriet Welsch. Well, he doesn't match Holden's cynicism, but he has his all-seeing critical eye and (like Harriet) records much of what he sees (and lip-reads) to his notebook. What Will has that Holden lacks is an essential need to belong, a desire to be liked even by kids he knows aren't worth the trouble. That makes him likable and completely human.

When he leaves deaf school for public school (mostly for political reasons), he quickly concedes that his only pal will be a mutual outcast, the goofy Devon Smiley who sports a pony-tail and talks like somebody out of The Great Gatsby. He also realizes soon after that Devon is a much better friend than anyone in the complex social hierarchy at Coaler High School, with the gorgeous Leigha Pennington and the self-assured and obnoxious Pat Chambers at the apex. Those two break up, Pat meets with an "accident," and as Will's ex-girlfriend from the deaf school signs, "the game is afoot." Devon, Will, and Ebony (the ex) are on the case.

There are plenty of LOLs and LOL2BIFTLOLISs along the way, but there's a good caper here, too, with an excellent ending. Don't let the deaf hero fool you -- this is no "problem novel" about a kid with disabilities. Will would absolutely hate that.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book. The main character is engaging and the plot and twists of the story are clever. After reading the book, we went to Amazon and bought three more books for our grandsons and nephews. Teenagers will definitely love and relate to it, but as an adult and an avid reader of all types of books, including mysteries we found it extremely enjoyable. Do not hesitate go out and buy this book today. Hope it becomes a series, because you will definitely care about the characters, especially Will, and you will want to know what he is up to now. Jay and Marilyn W.
Plantation, Fl.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed TDDOHH. The characters, from the stars and stand-outs, to the peripheral characters are extremely well developed. Berk obviously remembers the nuances of high school. This is a clever whodunit for a new generation of mystery lovers.
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Format: Paperback
I am utterly disappointed in The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, a young adult book where a deaf character who signs FINALLY has center stage. And it's a murder mystery to boot? Even better! No. Not better. Awful.

Unfortunately, Dark Days is culturally inaccurate and presents a hearing-centric perspective through a deaf character. Josh Berk's passing knowledge of sign language, Deaf Culture, the major contentions within this culture, and experiences of growing up deaf give him just enough material to be dangerous--and WRONG. (This does not include issues of mature content (i.e. the student-teacher liaisons, teenage pregnancy, the misogynistic trend) which put this book a bit above the 7th grade reading level--in my opinion, at least).

In Berk's acknowledgements, there is a short paragraph acknowledging the blogs of deaf writers who "helped [him] understand [his] subject better without even knowing it;" meaning, he only read these blogs and contacted perhaps one person (250)? This, I imagine, did not include any deaf vlogs in sign language, as Berk is quite obviously sign illiterate; this limits his faulty research to only the deaf individuals with confidence in their English. The only blog specifically named is not connected to the Deaf Community (and is no longer active).

Berk does not acknowledge the ADA's (American with Disabilities Act) role in the schooling of Deaf children, and the teachers all seem to blatantly ignore Will's IEP (Individual Education Plan, which would be necessary even for a student with hearing aids) by not facing him or providing another way for him to participate with class except lip-reading (which is NOT nearly as accurate as the narrative makes it seem).
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Format: Hardcover
Will Halpin is the most interesting and outrageously funny character to be introduced into the young adult world in a long time.

Will is overweight and sarcastic. In fact, he refers to himself as a "sedentary manatee." However, these are not Will's only characteristics. He is also deaf. Will left his "special school" to be a part of the mainstream "normal" high school scene. The Superintendant of the school resembles a "skeleton in a Beatles wig who smells like beef." And, from there, we are introduced to a cast of characters that are absolutely hysterical. We have the popular girl who everyone loves because she's beautiful. She is, of course, the ex of the quarterback. We have the incredibly rich girl, who likes to show off her money, and scream at her underlings, and we also have the inevitable geeks and nerds who, like Will, tend to stand on the sidelines and look out at the popular landscape with both amusement and envy in their eyes.

Will doesn't like hearing aids, so he attempts to lip-read all the teachers and students; even jotting down notes in his notebook regarding each and every person he runs into. (examples: the principal of the school who is rumored to have thrown a student out the window for chewing gum; a bus driver with toenails the length of a T-Rex; and, the jocks who seem to be outsmarted when trying to open a milk container in the lunch room).

Soon Will meets up with a boy named Devon Smiley. Devon is another outsider that gets picked on a lot by Pat Chambers - the football hero. Pat is one of those boys who have the world and everyone in it at their feet. His father is an extremely rich casino developer who is popping up in the news as being investigated by the government for illegal activity.
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