Saturday, April 23, 2011

Y/A REVIEW: THE CARDTURNER!

Y/A REVIEW: THE CARDTURNER!

A NOVEL ABOUT A KING, A QUEEN, AND A JOKER . . .

LOUIS SACHAR

Who knew the card game bridge was exciting. I sure didn’t and I doubt most young adult readers today have ever heard of the game, unless perhaps one of their grandparents played. However, award winning author Louis Sachar – who scored big with one of my favorite off-beat Y/A novels, Holes – somehow conned his publisher into letting him try to make the game important to a new generation. And somehow, he pulls the great teen bridge novel out of his hat in highly amusing and highly emotional style.

His dysfunctional parents (are there any other kind in Y/A novels?) want teen Alton Richards to cozy up to his favorite uncle – the rich, not long for this world, Lester Trapp, a world class bridge player. Trapp has been blinded by diabetes and needs Alton to be his cardturner at the local bridge club. Reluctantly, but with nothing better to do, Alton finds himself awash in bridge gibberish (“one banana, pass, pass, two no-trump. Is that unusual?”) and nasty barbs from his uncle.

In the first person told tale, Sachar wisely has Alton warn his readers when the bridge explanations are going to slow the story down – only they don’t . . . these sections are as riveting as the rest of the story, even though reluctant readers can skip ahead to a pithy wrap up.

As Trapp and his bridge partner, Gloria, begin an assault to get to the national bridge championships, Alton and the reader are drawn into not only the game, but into Trapp’s life, the life of Trapp’s true bridge partner – who went insane causing Nixon (yes, that Nixon) to investigate her death – and the female peer descendant of the insane woman – who just might be insane herself – and the excitement, yes, EXCITEMENT, and fanaticism of big time bridge.  An then the plot goes sideways in brilliant fashion, making this definitely Alton's book and not Trapp's . . .

Sachar excels at creating teen characters while his adult characters are often one step over the top, yet in Y/A fiction this is an accepted deceit. The storytelling here is confident, the characters touching, and there is not a vampire in sight – what more could you ask?

The Cardturner is one of those books, like Holes before it, that will stay with me on the cherished bookshelf in my soul.

THE CARDTURNER

From Louis Sachar, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Newbery Medal for HOLES, comes the young adult novel THE CARDTURNER, an exploration of the human condition.

How are we supposed to be partners? He can’t see the cards and I don’t know the rules!

The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him to hook up with his best friend. He has no money and no job. His parents insist that he drive his great-uncle Lester to his bridge club four times a week and be his cardturner—whatever that means. Alton’s uncle is old, blind, very sick, and very rich.

But Alton’s parents aren’t the only ones trying to worm their way into Lester Trapp’s good graces. They’re in competition with his longtime housekeeper, his alluring young nurse, and the crazy Castaneda family, who seem to have a mysterious influence over him.

Alton soon finds himself intrigued by his uncle, by the game of bridge, and especially by the pretty and shy Toni Castaneda. As the summer goes on, he struggles to figure out what it all means, and ultimately to figure out the meaning of his own life.

Through Alton’s wry observations, Louis Sachar explores the disparity between what you know and what you think you know. With his incomparable flair and inventiveness, he examines the elusive differences between perception and reality — and inspires readers to think and think again.




1 comment:

Bill Crider said...

Judy and I both liked this one a lot.