Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN by Josh Berk Kirkus Star

THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN

By Josh Berk

Age Range: 12 - 16

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-375-85699-0
Publisher: Knopf

This witty tale of mainstreaming, misfits and murder glitters like the “Future Diamonds” that coal-mine souvenirs promise to someday become. Sixteen-year-old Will lives in Pennsylvania coal country. Correct guesses on a hearing test and a false promise to wear hearing aids allow him to mainstream for the first time. Being fat and deaf is no social boost, and lip reading—easier for Will than for someone deaf since birth, but still sketchy—only goes so far. In a droll present tense, ironic and self-mocking but somehow also centered, Will talks about his ancestor namesake’s appearance in a history book as a ghost, his class’s field trip that turns murderous and his dry acquiescence to sleuthing, à la the Hardy Boys, with eager geek pal Smiley. Dickinson and Poe receive equally keen references (a stolen “Deaf Child” traffic sign beats metaphorically under Will’s bed). Only a clichéd fatness explanation (overeating) and the implausibility of such highly successful lip reading distract; but the funny, clever voice and the small but spot-on thread of deaf politics make this a winner. (Fiction. 12-16)