Rating: 5/5 Stars
Release Date: 5/11/2010
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About the Book: Lester Trapp is Alton's great-uncle. All his life Alton has been told that Trapp is Alton's favorite uncle-Trapp is wealthy and his parents hope that they will make out nicely in Trapp's will. But Trapp is a bitter grumpy old man and Alton's only met him a few times. When the opportunity comes for Alton to assist his blind uncle in playing bridge, by acting as his eyes, Alton's parents jump at the chance for Alton to "bond" with his favorite uncle and up their chances of being included in Trapp's will. But Alton gets more than he bargained for when he discovers he might actually understand and enjoy bridge, and that Trapp's great-niece Toni (from Trapp's other side of the family) is also trying to win over Trapp for a coveted spot in his will.
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: This is probably going to be the worst review and make no sense, because I honestly can't put into words why and how much I loved this book. I'd seen it around and read a review that piqued my interest. But bridge, in a book for teenagers? How interesting could that be?
Turns out it makes for a great story and one that is so unique and different from anything else I've read. Alton is a very likeable character and I love his narration and observations on life. Alton is a nice guy, he still talks to his best friend even though his girlfriend dumped him and started dating said best friend. He doesn't complain too much about having to play bridge. He's not a mysterious bad boy type, but a nice normal teen. He's the type of guy I would have had a crush on in high school.
Toni provides some of the spunk in the book. She's Trapp's great-niece so while Alton knows of Toni, they are on opposite sides of Trapp's family and Trapp is the one that connects them. Toni is hilarious and while she starts out as being somewhat odd, I really liked her and thought she was a great counterpart to Alton's character.
Even though The Cardturner is about Alton and Toni, it's mostly about Trapp and Annabel, Trapp's former bridge partner and Toni's grandmother. Their story is heartbreaking and how it connects and intertwines with Alton and Toni is pitch-perfect storytelling. They connect slowly and the way the two stories unfold keep the reader interested and engaged and just made the book for me.
The Cardturner, even with all it's great characters and storytelling, is ultimately a book about bridge. The author likens this to telling a story about baseball to aliens-it's not going to make a lot of sense. The way Mr. Sachar makes it work is that he uses a whale (inspired by Alton's annoyance over the fact that Moby Dick has long boring passages that aren't about whale hunting). In the book, these passages are marked by a whale, and that's when you know long technical information about bridge is coming up. Readers can skim or skip these parts and just read the basic overview at the end of each bridge passage or they can read them and try to learn more about the game. I listened to this one on audio, so these passages are marked by the sound of a foghorn. I tried to pay attention, but I still don't know that much about bridge!
The Cardturner has such a strange premise that it's going to be a hard sell to readers, but if you can get them to pick it up, it's worth it. I tried to booktalk it the other day and I couldn't exactly explain why I loved it so much so I just had to offer up the good ol "just trust me on this one." There's just a bit of magic to this book and the way everything comes together is why I finished the book smiling and adding it to my Printz picks for 2011. Just trust me on this one.
Book Pairings: This could make an interesting reading circle with books about teens playing games although I can only think of poker books-All In by Pete Hautman and Big Slick by Eric Luper
Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook checked out from my wonderful local library