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Journal of a UFO Investigator by David Halperin
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Jul 21, 11

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Read in March, 2011

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway at the beginning of February and received it within a surprisingly short amount of time. This was another book that I approached without a full understanding of what I was getting myself into. You could say I didn't read the summary closely. Both the title and cover seem to imply some sort of quirky adventure about a kid who likes the idea of UFOs a little too much. However, as soon as I started reading, it quickly became clear that this novel was much more than that.

Yes, it's an adventure but it's a deeply personal one that is much more about how a lonely teenager handles a dysfunctional family, loss and regret through one extended metaphor, which is the surreal UFO adventure he invents for himself. Halperin seemlessly weaves reality and fantasy together in an engaging narrative. This is especially effective in the novel's first pages where the switch happens very easily, the only cues coming from italicized words. I tend to read very fast, which would explain why there were some moments where I was just like, what is going on.

I got used to Halperin's writing style fairly quickly though. It's simple but descriptive. Does that make sense? I don't know, I liked it. The story flowed, although I know that this is one story that's definitely not for everyone. For one, it deals with some dark issues, such as physical abuse and antisemitism, and there's also quite a bit of Awkward Teenage Moments. The subject matter itself might not appeal to everyone, as there exists a blend of religion with UFO mythology.

I had to keep reminding myself that the majority of the story told throughout the novel is made-up by Danny himself. I read a couple of reviews where the reviewer noted this as detrimental to the story because there wasn't much overlap with Danny's real life. However, I didn't mind. The story Danny was telling was interesting albeit extremely bizarre and impossible, especially at certain points, but when the overlap with his life did happen? It worked. Towards the end, the overlap was especially significant. Although the Danny that speaks and acts for the majority of the novel is the real Danny's creation, I feel like this is insight enough into his character. It's clearly his way of dealing with awful things that have happened to him. But he's not a very dynamic character. He remains quiet and lonely. Yet, the novel ends on a slightly uplifting tone. At least that's how I read it. Danny grows up and it's bittersweet.

So, it's like I said, Halperin makes things fit, but I wouldn't exactly encourage my fellow YA readers to pick this up. It's not exactly a light read, and it's far from the typical YA novel even though the protagonist is a teenager. This is for a more mature audience that can look beyond the surface to see what all the out-of-this-world scenarios really mean to Danny.

(Review can also be found at my blog.)

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