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Josh Berk - The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

Will Halpin, who is deaf and starting his first year of mainstream schooling after years of attending a school for the Deaf, has the usual anxieties about starting at a new school, fitting in, making friends, being befriended by the school's biggest dork. When one of his classmates dies on a field trip to a coal mine, he suspects foul play and -- along with his dork friend, and with assistance from his ex-girlfriend Ebony -- tries to solve the murder.

This book was a real pleasure to read. Will is delightfully snarky about the problems of accessibility (terrible captions on TV, teachers who spend their time talking with their faces to the chalkboard so it's impossible to read lips) and also a normal teenage boy (who gets a crush on the police sign language interpreter). I was a little concerned when Will made his decision to attend mainstream schooling because he didn't feel political about his deafness in the same way that his classmates did. But I think it's honestly characterized -- Will comes from a hearing family, and his father isn't fluent in ASL, and his longing to fit in is believable; Ebony feels differently and the book doesn't come off as judging either her or Will for their choices.

Ned Vizzini - It's Kind Of A Funny Story

Overachieving Brooklyn teenager Craig checks himself into a psychiatric hospital after making plans to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. Vizzini himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital as a teenager. The book is based on his experiences, and rings true to me; the other people in the ward aren't portrayed in a way that's sensationalistic or mawkish. There's an instance of transphobia close to the beginning that left a bad taste in my mouth, but it's a tender story and a keen depiction of the weight of depression that's hopeful without being dishonest. (Has been made into a movie, which I haven't seen.)

Paul Griffin - The Orange Houses

The intertwined lives of a veteran of the Iraq war, a Somali immigrant, and a girl with hearing loss, all living in the Bronx. This was beautifully written, but alas! Do we really need more books where getting hearing aids is a metaphor for letting people into your life? It's not as bad as it sounds -- the book acknowledges, at least, that hearing aids aren't a perfect solution -- but I think this gets filed under "People with disabilities are not your metaphor."
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