The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, by Josh Berk

When I opened the package containing Josh Berk's debut novel The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, I assumed it was a book aimed at elementary school students. The colorful cover, the goofy name, the G-rated blurb on the back—it all cried out “Give me to a nine-year-old!”.

Seriously, do not give this book to a nine-year-old.

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin has more in common with Heathers than Harriet the Spy. When Will Halpin ditches his special school for the deaf in favor of Pennsylvania's Carbon High, his social prospects are nil. Carbon High is dominated by jocks and cheerleaders, and they have no use for a hefty new kid who reads lips—unless they're looking for fresh meat to torment. But when the school's star quarterback meets an unpleasant end at the bottom of a mine shaft, Will's unique abilities come in handy, and he and his new pal Devon (the second least popular kid in school) team up to solve the mystery.

I loved this novel. Dark Days is darkly funny and gleefully frank, and while Will is an engaging narrator, his social limitations make him a plausible outcast. (This isn't one of those stories where the protagonist is a half-hour makeover away from being prom king.) The mystery is engrossing and the plot resolution tidy. I closed the book looking forward to Berk's next project... and sincerely hoping the paperback edition of this novel featured a completely different look.

Note: Thankfully, it seems to. Clearly, I wasn't the only person who felt that a book featuring a high school math teacher fond of leaning forward to show off the dolphin tattoo on her cleavage needed more mature cover art.

[Review based on a publisher-provided copy.]
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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