The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

by Josh Berk

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Overview

Being a hefty, deaf newcomer almost makes Will Halpin the least popular guy at Coaler High. But when he befriends the only guy less popular than him, the dork-namic duo has the smarts and guts to figure out who knocked off the star quarterback. Will can’t hear what’s going on, but he’s a great observer. So, who did it? And why does that guy talk to his fingers? And will the beautiful girl ever notice him? (Okay, so Will’s interested in more than just murder . . .)

Those who prefer their heroes to be not-so-usual and with a side of wiseguy will gobble up this witty, geeks-rule debut.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375846250
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 06/14/2011
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 494,834
Product dimensions: 5.38(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.58(d)
Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

This is Josh Berk’s first novel. He lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and is a children’s services librarian at the Allentown Public Library.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

It is a cool September morning. The sun is breaking through the pines, and the air carries a tangy scent of freshness and renewal only to be found on the first day of school. I am rocking my plus-size Phillies sweatshirt and waiting with the others at the bus stop. Well, not exactly "with" them. As often happens when I'm out in the world, I place myself a little bit apart from the herd. I lean against a tree a few feet off to the side of a triangle formation of two cute girls and a dude. I get their names: A.J., Teresa, and Gabby. They hardly acknowledge me, so I return the favor. I have a lot on my mind anyway.

Will I survive at the mainstream school? Should I seduce Nurse Weaver to stay out of special ed? I don't have a proven talent for normal, and it strains the limits of credibility to come up with a scenario that involves seducing Nurse Weaver, the school district RN who did my hearing test. (I passed, barely, by guessing and promising to wear my hearing aids, which are already stashed in my pocket—sucker!) Still, it is a fun thought. Nurse Weaver is a cutie. Thinking about seducing her is certainly preferable to imagining doing sexual favors for the person who really holds my future in her hands: Superintendent Sylvia P. Zirkel.

I had to write a plea to SPZ to let me transfer from the deaf school to Carbon High. It was mostly lies, since I figured she wouldn't really understand the fight that forced my departure from the school for the deaf. Infights and deaf-world arguments rarely make sense to anyone else. She gave a distinctly wary OK, but I still have to be on her good side. If she deems it necessary, I will be bounced. Regardless, I will not allow myself to be taken advantage of by Superintendent Zirkel—a woman who looks like a skeleton in a Beatles wig and smells like beef. This is my solemn vow. Amen.

Nurse Weaver might have guessed that I was fumbling through the hearing test, but she was impressed with my lipreading skills. They are fantastic, if I do say so myself. I was one of the two best lip-readers at my old school (the other being my ex-"girlfriend," Ebony). I'll have to rely on lipreading to get by, since this school district is still relatively underfunded despite all the newly rich moving in on the fringes of coal country. CHS cannot afford a cool captioning system like some of the fancy schools over the river. There are no interpreters. There's no structured "inclusion" program. What they have is pretty much "sink or swim." And from what I hear (so to sign, not speak), sink is the more common outcome.

The school bus comes, and I cruise on. Geez. I didn't factor in this being so terrifying, seeing these unfamiliar faces all scrubbed and happy. Who are these people? There is one guy, a half-asleep-looking weirdo, slouching in the back, who seems like he should be on a prison bus. I plop down on the first seat behind the bus driver.

The bus driver is a wiry and dangerous-looking man with a bizarre beard that rings his tanned face like an upside-down halo. Even though it is pretty cold out, he is wearing sandals, which reveal unnervingly long toenails. He is also eating a family-size bag of pork rinds for breakfast.

A cocky kid who gets on at a stop after mine says something to Jimmy Porkrinds about his sandals, to which he replies, "My feet, my business." Pretty deep. Someone should engrave it on a plaque and/or make it into an inspirational poster to hang in bathrooms. For the rest of the trip, J.P. talks to himself. I love people who talk to themselves. through the rearview mirrow, I lip-read some strange stuff coming out of his mouth. Stuff that might have been song lyrics: "Dig, dig, dig the hole, hidey-hidey hole" and "Joke the mole, smoke a bowl." I write in my notebook: JIMMY PORKRINDS = ADDLED POTHEAD OR GIFTED LYRICIST?

I also watch a few conversations from the rows behind me. Several kids, including Teresa and Gabby, have brought large envelopes with them and are waving them around. Those without envelopes seem a little sad. Somebody grabs Gabby's envelope, and a shiny piece of paper falls out and flutters to the ground. She freaks out and dives to catch it as if it was a baby falling to its death. "Dude, I am not missing that party," she says. "No way." She grabs it back up and carefully slides it into the envelope again with a smug expression. A.J. looks like he's not sure if he should laugh or cry. Join the club. Before long, with a fabulous mutter of "Watch yo' ass, Philip Glass" from J.P., we have arrived at school.

CHAPTER TWO

My day begins with a meeting in the principal's office. Principal's office already? Am I in trouble on the first day? I admonish myself. You are quite the miscreant, William Badboy Halpin.

Have to be careful not to look like some weirdo laughing to myself here. I do feel a bit nervous walking in that door labeled principal kroener. Even at the deaf school, we heard about Kroener. He supposedly threw a kid through a window for chewing gum. I was hoping I could get all the way to graduation without ever having to meet him. I've forgotten to put my hearing aids back on, but he doesn't notice. I can hear a little with them, but I hate them. I know I still don't hear what everyone else does, they give me intense headaches, and I hate being stared at like I have six heads. When I put them on, all eyes go straight to my ears. No one notices my dashing movie star looks or body builder's physique. Understandably.

Kroener is on a phone call and distractedly welcomes me into his office. He gestures for me to take a seat and scatters some papers as he does. I spy with my little eye a particular sheet of paper labeled "Will Halpin Individual Education Program." The fact that I require an IEP reminds me that I'm still on the banks of the mainstream. And though the sheet is upside-down from where I sit, I can make out the basics. Apparently, I'm "profoundly deaf yet intellectually capable." This yet pisses me off! It's the kind of thing some of my old classmates would have formed a protest committee over. I'm usually the type to let things slide, which maybe was why I was somewhat of an outsider even among my own peeps.

I see too that I have high marks for my ability to lip-read, and it's also noted that I'm excellent at sign language. A kiss of the hand to you. My ability to speak is listed as "adequate," which makes me smile inside, since I barely said a word to Nurse Weaver. I hardly speak at all, and I really don't like talking to people I don't know well. People have laughed at the way I talk, and I don't altogether know what the hell I'm saying. I've had a million arguments about how I should probably just get over this and be proud of my deafness, but I remain unconvinced. That kind of thinking is part of the reason I left my old school.

Kroener slams down the phone and gives me my schedule. He seems like he is actually trying to be nice. He has learned a few signs and stumbles through "Welcome to our school." He hands me a letter that basically says the same thing and a map, which I hope I will be able to figure out. "Consider me welcomed," I sign, throwing Kroener a big, only partly insincere, grin. Tall and wide, with a head shaped like a bullet, Principal Kroener tries to smile back, but it looks like it doesn't fit his face. I wave awkwardly and skedaddle.

First up, first class. I'm good with maps, probably from constantly playing video games (take that, video game critics!), so I easily find the room for American history. I'm stepping in, feeling like an astronaut on alien soil as my foot lands on the other side of the threshold. There is no time to contemplate this giant leap for Halpin-kind, however, because I am immediately overwhelmed. And it seems I'm not the only one.

The teacher, a pear-shaped, balding man whose ID badge identifies him as Mr. Arterberry, appears to be even more unsure of what to do with me. Nurse Weaver assured me that she had filled the teachers in, so they know all about my "primary mode of understanding" being lipreading and that I am "strong textually," which I assume means that I read and write well. She's right—I enjoy words. They are like music to my ears.

Mr. A. has a seat for me off in a corner of the room. This will allow me to read lips of teacher as well as students and thus benefit from the fantastic scholarly wisdom offered by both lecture and class discussion. But it also makes me feel shoved aside, sort of like a houseplant. Will someone at least remember to prune and water me?

The first thing I notice is this: public school girls are freaking hot. Nice. I try to focus on that and not on the sinking feeling that it might be way harder not to fail here than I thought. It's only been a few seconds since class started, and Arterberry apparently has already forgotten Nurse Weaver's instructions. Even though I have always been exceptionally good at lipreading (blue ribbon at Camp Arrowhead!), I need to actually see the lips. Even in the best situations, I'm likely to miss a few words in the middle of a sentence. Arterberry keeps turning around or covering his mouth with his flabby arm while writing on the board. Plus, although I realize that the Americans with Disabilities Act can't force him to get rid of his bushy lip beast, a basic sense of fashion and/or hygiene should compel him to at least trim his 'stache.

The class ends before I have any idea what era of history we were even talking about. The American Revolution or maybe the Teapot Dome scandal? At the deaf school, every teacher knows sign language, and they have these captioning systems so everything shows up as text on a screen in addition to the lecture. Have I made a terrible mistake coming here? But I got so tired of the squabbles. Are you deaf enough? Strong deaf? Weak deaf? I just wanted to hang out and relax—not have to prove so much. I simply don't have a problem with hearing people. I always ended up defending them. Which landed me here. And now I'm not so sure....

Ah, but the girls.

One specimen, a perky little type, answers so many questions that it is easy to figure out her name even through Arterberry's swath of mustache hair. "Yes, Mindy?" "Miss Spark?" "Right you are, Mindy." "Mindy, Mindy, Mindy." Deaf people are also good at reading emotion as well as content, and it is easy for me to see that Mindy Spark is already Mr. Arterberry's least favorite student.

And then there is a girl I'm pretty sure is named Leigha. Mindy says her name a few times ("Right, Leigha?" "How 'bout it, Leigha?" "Oh my God, remember, this one time  Leigha?"), so I get it. This Leigha is an unqualified beauty. Her eyes shine like steel, and her perfect face is the face in a dream you never even knew you were capable of having. Perfect. I write it down in my little notebook. MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL IN THE WORLD = LEIGHA-MIA. PERKY CHICK = MINDY SPARK PLUG. Then I write an observation about a weirdo from the bus. I don't know his name yet. Unlike Mindy, he answers no questions and spends the whole class staring at his fingers. SCUZZY GUY LOVES HIS FINGERS.

I hope this stuff will be on the test.

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The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
NGSandMe More than 1 year ago
Bought this book for my 12 year old for a class reading assignment. They had to have a mystery. Most of the teen mystery books are all Twlight style...NOTHING he would have been interested in OR they are pretty racey - too advanced for my liking. This sounded interesting and the reviews were good. I opened it when it came, read the first couple pages just to see what it was like. I was hooked almost immediately. I read it in two days - just couldn't put it down and was sad when it was over! The best part is now that my son is reading it we have discussions about it ALL the time!!! It is nice that two people of such different ages can get so much enjoyment out of the same thing.
Communism More than 1 year ago
lololololololol 'nuff said
RedRaven More than 1 year ago
Even those this book is considered YA (Young Adult), this older adult enjoyed it immensely. I loved the use of text messaging as a way for Will and Devon to communicate with each other and with the reader. The story moves along and has a satisfying conclusion. It has the making of a great series because I wanted to know more about what happens to Will, Devon and Ebony. I'm looking forward to reading more.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Looking for a wacky adventure? Get your hands on a copy of THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN. I'll admit I was attracted by the title, thinking it sounded like a "good time" read, and I wasn't disappointed. Will Halpin is embarking on a new and sort of terrifying journey. Will is deaf and has spent his educational years attending a special school for the deaf. He has recently made the decision to enroll in public high school. In addition to his deafness, Will is a bit on the chunky side and not exactly up on the latest fashion trends, dating habits, and musical interests of mainstream high school teens. Will does his best to understand his surroundings by lip-reading the words of his teachers and classmates. He meets a fellow misfit, Devon Smiley, who knows how to finger spell, and they strike up a friendship. Together, the two pass the time observing and commenting on the various oddities of their classmates and teachers. As outsiders, they watch as star football player, Pat Chambers, hands out coveted invitations to one of his special parties. Knowing neither of them has a chance of being invited, they watch in fascination to see which privileged few receive the limited invites. The party takes a backseat in the action when the students go on a field trip to a nearby abandoned coal mine. Just as it looks like they'll be boarding the bus for the return trip to school, panic breaks out when it is reported that Pat Chambers has fallen down the mine shaft and is dead. Will and Devon decide to take on the challenge of investigating the tragic accident, and the first thing they encounter is that it probably was no accident. What follows next involves computer hacking, researching the backgrounds and habits of various teachers and students, and stumbling across a number of shocking discoveries. Can a deaf kid and a Hardy Boys fan make sense of the clues and help the police solve the mystery? THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN by Josh Berk features sarcastic humor and clever mystery elements as it reveals what it's like to try fitting in when you have a disability. Berk's characters creatively reflect high school stereotypes, making them entertaining and easy to relate to. Overall, an enjoyable read and one many teens will be interested in checking out.
thelittlereader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
if you are looking for a really fun and quirky YA mystery with dorks abound, least of all a deaf narrator, then this is the book for you. i had a lot of good laughs over this one and it was a great, quick weekend read.Will Halpin is definitely not your normal boy. first of all, he¿s deaf, but he¿s also very intelligent, can read lips with great accuracy and is stubborn enough to want to leave his specialized deaf school to go to the local public high school. this forces him into the unusual position of being an outcast from both communities and he takes it all in stride with his great sense of humor and quick wit. when the local high school celebrity jock is mysteriously killed during a school field trip, Will and his unlikely group of friends, his deaf ex-girlfriend Ebony and Devon, another social outcast who has a ¿dumb ponytail¿ and ¿smells faintly of cheese¿, do everything they can to find out whodunnit."The Smileywagon pulls up to Ebony¿s house. She is standing out front waiting for us, basically bouncing on her toes with excitement. Devon looks at her and then me and then her. He mouths, ¿She¿s black.¿ I palm my cheek and act schocked¿ Devon still seems a little flustered by her blackitude. (Wasn¿t the fact that her name is Ebony some sort of clue, Frank?) He obviously panics as he tries to remember the signs he had learned for the occasion. Then he signs, ¿Good morning! I am very happy to have us with you.¿ Nice try, Dev."the best part of this book for me, hands down, was the ability to witness high school life from the perspective of Will. with his snarky sense of humor and witty tongue, the reader can watch the drama, suspense and hilarity from the sidelines. from the ¿soud-discriminatory-bell¿ to the social order of the high school was constantly under Will and Devon¿s scrutiny and their cynicism and sarcasm made for some hilarious narrative. through Will¿s notebook doodling and text chat conversations, as well as some really great internal monologues, the pages turned one after another with ease.the writing was simple, suitable for age 12 and up (or so), but the plot and story were deep enough to keep me entertained as an adult. it wasn¿t the richest YA novel i¿ve ever read, but it was definitely highly entertaining and worth the read. the mystery was a tad predictable, but everything else in between was refreshingly different and made up for it.if you liked Nancy Drew and/or The Hardy Boys when you were a kid and are looking for something similar, but current, or you just like a light YA read from time to time, i¿d definitely recommend The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin.
ValerieAndBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Will Halpin, the first-person narrator of this book, decides to leave the deaf school he has always attended to escape deaf politics (more on that later). This novel begins with his first day of school at the local high school, where he is mainstreamed as the only deaf student. Quickly finding himself as an outsider (not only is he deaf, he is also overweight), Will¿s only friend at school is pony-tailed Devon Smiley who has a penchant for nerdily accurate grammar. Will and Devon communicate with each other via finger-spelling (this is mostly all Devon knows, while Will himself is fluent in sign language), writing notes, and much instant-messaging between each other. In fact, the novel¿s title comes from Will¿s screen name, HamburgerHalpin.Don¿t assume that this is a ¿problem novel¿. Although Will and his friend Devon both often have to face derision by most of their classmates and some of their teachers, there is no long, deep throes of self-pity. Will never hesistates to call it as he sees it, and much of this novel reflects his biting humor. When a classmate is murdered, Will and Devon decide to figure out who did it, and give each other code names based on Hardy Boys characters. They also bring in Will¿s ex-girlfriend-but-still-a-friend, Ebony, to help. This ¿Odd Squad¿ work together, facing lots of close calls, to finally solve the mystery.There was a lot I liked about this book. The humor was one thing. Will talks about his experiences being deaf, but without either angry diatribes or overly technical talk; both of which might lose the interest of an YA reader. The characters (mostly high school students) are ones we all know, or knew, in high school: the jocks, the representatives of the popular crowd, the kids on the sidelines.Of course, being deaf myself, I paid extra close attention to all the references regarding deafness and deaf culture. In my opinion, author Josh Berk has really done his homework, and passes the test. Will Halpin refers to deaf politics at the deaf school he previously attended (incidentally, Will lives in Eastern Pennsylvania; the setting for this story). Will did not want to take part of the ¿us versus them¿ thinking at the deaf school, but was transferring to a mainstreamed school really a better alternative? I must say again that I really enjoyed the humor in this book. While I¿m not as funny as Will, I have some deaf friends who share the same type of humor as he does; and reading this book sort of brought me back into high school memories. To give you an idea of Will¿s tone of voice¿ and examples of how Will explains deaf culture and deafness ¿ I will pull some quotes from the book.While Will is sitting in the cafeteria, trying to understand anything, or anyone, around him:¿It can be really overwhelming for a lip-reader to be in such a hive-like atmosphere. See, I can¿t turn off my ability to read lips, so it is like ¿hearing¿ a thousand conversations at once¿..¿¿It¿s like watching TV while someone else works the remote. No, better yet: imagine yourself sitting in a room with with a hundred TVs turned up loud while you whirl around on a Sit & Spin at a dizzying speed, trying to follow the plot. The only way not to totally lose my head is to intently focus on one person and ¿ here¿s the trick ¿ not get caught. Most folks aren¿t too keen on having a big deaf fatty eyeballing them. I¿d love to be wrong about this, but it is unlikely¿.About his ex-girlfriend Ebony and deaf politics:¿Ebony is a lot like me. At first glance you might not think so, since she¿s black and really cute, and I¿m, well, not. But we both grew up with ¿problems with our ears¿ but could hear somewhat for most of our early lives. (That¿s how come I can read lips and write so well.) But Ebony is sort of a political deaf person who agrees with a lot of ¿prelingually¿ deaf people. These people usually have sign language as a first language and sometimes don¿t learn English at all. (And, y
fanchon33 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Will Halpin was deaf, a new student in a new school, and a bit overweight. He is dragged into helping solve the mystery of what happened to the star quarterback after he is found dead in the Happy Memory Coal Mine on a field trip. Will and his new friend, Devon, investigate using smartphones, lip reading, and cleverness (with no small amount of humor!). This is a great book for any young adult who may feel a little out of the mainstream and wants to be a hero.
womansheart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I completed reading The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin. Excellent writing. Great dialogue between a deaf high school sophomore and a new friend he makes at the *mainstream* public high school. He has formerly attended the Deaf School in his town.The death of a classmate during a field trip, generates a closer relationship between the friends as they use every means at their disposal to help solve the mystery of who killed their acquaintance/fellow student. Computer skills, texting and lip-reading aficionados are involved. Yeah.Recommended for those people interested in high school age young people, especially those who work with them and/or have a child with a disability. (Not every deaf child/person experiences deafness as a disability!) Realistically presented, and upbeat. Good sleuthing by the duo/trio of friends. Treats the age group with respect for their intelligence and creativity.Four Stars.
ericajsc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From reading his blog and following him on Twitter, I was expecting Josh Berk¿s book to be funny and amusing. It was, in fact, funnier and more amusing than I thought it would be. Berk is like that guy in, oh, let¿s say, your government class who, no matter what he was talking about, managed to infuse it with The Funny.This is a quick read, but don¿t think that means that it¿s predictable. Will and Devon, with the help of Will¿s ex-¿girlfriend¿ Ebony, actually manage to uncover clues that the police have missed. Likely? I don¿t know. Entertaining? Definitely. Through an anonymous (and hilariously written) tip to the police, the guys turn the police investigation on it's head. The fact that almost every character in the book is a suspect makes following the clues fun. And I love the idea that it's actually because of, rather than despite, his deafness that Will figures out a lot of what he does.But what I really like about this book is that, even though it¿s full of humor, it¿s not just superficial entertainment. Through a history assignment, Will discovers a family connection to the coal mines in town, and wonders how he¿s never heard this part of his past. It forces him to see another side of his parents, one he didn¿t expect. But it's not mushy; dudes needn't fear they'll go soft. I told my husband to recommend the book to his 7th grade students, both male and female, and for the record, I don't do that very often.I¿m always excited to find new authors with a unique voice, and Josh Berk is definitely one of them. I'll definitely be picking up his future works.
ALelliott on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Will ¿Hamburger¿ Halpin has made a difficult choice to leave the deaf school, where he had friends and understood everything, to go to the local public school, where teachers can¿t communicate effectively, and he is bullied by everyone from the quarterback to the calculus teacher. Still, he¿s determined to learn to navigate the world of the hearing, especially after he finally makes a friend: the only kid lower on the social totem pole than himself. Still, Devon Smiley is an engaging guy, and he even tries to learn sign language. Reluctantly, Will begins making a friend.Then a field trip to a local coal mine has disastrous results: the most popular kid in school, Pat Chambers, is pushed to his death, and no one knows who the pusher is. Will and Devon team up, and with the help of Will¿s ex-girlfriend, Ebony, try to find the murderer. Is it Leigha Pennington, class beauty and Will¿s hopeless crush? Or perhaps Jimmy Porkrinds, the terminally stoned bus driver? Or maybe Miss Prefontaine, the well-endowed calculus teacher, who is rumored to have been a little too concerned about Pat Chambers¿s academic success. In working to solve the mystery, Will stumbles onto an ancestor who seems a little to identical to him to be real--another deaf Will Halpin. Is it a crazy coincidence, or something more?Told with wit and biting sardonicism, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin will keep kids reading. The point of view is novel, and although Berk himself isn¿t deaf, he clearly worked to learn about deaf culture. Will and Devon are engaging characters, with Will as a sarcastic but big-hearted loner and Devon as a overly enthusiastic dork. Unfortunately, these two are the only fully-drawn characters; the rest are little more than cardboard cutouts. Will¿s parents, especially, are little more than ¿distant parent¿ caricatures, which makes it hard to care about Will¿s relationship with them, or the inevitable reconciliation. Additionally, although this book is meant as a satire, there are some pretty heavy issues sprinkled throughout: teenage pregnancy, illicit liaisons between teachers and students, and parental abuse are all part of the landscape, but the book seems stuck in kind of an in-between. Either Berk needed to treat the subjects a little more seriously, or he needed to go further and really make them ridiculous (probably rendering this a book for adults, not teens). As it is, you think you¿re reading a funny book and then blam, a teen girl is pregnant and being pressured to have an abortion, and then the story moves on. It¿s disconcerting as an adult reader; I can only imagine that it would be confusing as a teen.Still this is a valuable book for students because it provides them the opportunity to see the world from a different point of view, one that is too little used. I also appreciated that this book used the first-person present tense POV for a reason--sign language has no past tense, so it makes sense that Will would only use the present tense. I¿ve grown weary that YA books have a seeming addiction to the first-person present tense, but here it actually enhances the story. It would be a great book for discussion for a lot of reasons, including the seemingly light treatment of weighty issues. Those weighty issues, however, make this book appropriate for middle to older teens; I wouldn¿t recommend this to middle school kids.For grades 10 and up.
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THEMAN27 More than 1 year ago
Great read for all!
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