Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin
By Josh Berk, read by Jim Meskimen
Published 2011 by Listening Library

Will, also known as Hamburger, Halpin is starting at a new high school. It's hard enough being the new kid, but being the hefty deaf new kid? Really tricky. However, Will may be a bit more observant than the average hearing high-schooler - and that just might come in handy when the star quarterback dies. Was it an accident? Or maybe even murder?

This book has a really interesting premise and I've been meaning to read it for a few years now. My roommate in library school read it when she was considering books featuring characters with a disability for our young adult literature class and she enjoyed it. I downloaded the audiobook as I came across it. This has extremely high boy appeal and a really strong male voice - I really felt like I was listening to the inner workings of a teen guy's mind. Will's deafness is a very integral part of his character and it's portrayed in a realistic way. I like that this is about more than just the mysterious death of a classmate - actually, I felt the mystery was the weaker part of the story. I wish the book had focused more on Will's decision to change to a traditional high school instead of a high school for the deaf. A deeper exploration of deaf culture would have been really fascinating to me. However, it's also good that this book isn't just about Will's disability - this book shows that he is more than just a deaf guy. He's also very observant and lonely, and he wants to fit in. Many of Will's struggles will be familiar to teen readers. I also enjoyed the development of Will's relationships with the other characters in the story - once again, it was a part of the story that felt very realistic and natural and worked well for me. There are many genuinely funny moments throughout the story, making this a good read for teens who are looking for their next funny book. As I mentioned, I thought the mystery was the weakest part of the story - it seemed a bit too convoluted.

As a reader, Meskimen has a pretty flat intonation - and it actually works well in the story. He is good at altering his voice to represent the various characters in ways that don't feel overly done. He reads at the perfect speed and really nails the jokes. A well-done audio.

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