The Cardturner show up in my mailbox a while back. I finally got around to reading it this past weekend, and while it isn't Holes, I thoroughly enjoyed it. (Don't you hate it when reviewers compare author's works to their most highly-acclaimed works?)
The premise - Alton Richards is your typical teenage boy. It's summer break, and since his girlfriend dumped him for his best friend, he has no exciting plans. He's not super excited when his mother volunteers him to drive his ailing blind uncle (who also happens to be rich) to his bridge games and be his cardturner a few times a week. As his uncle's health continues to fail, Alton's parents want to make sure Alton charms the family into his will, but there's another family that has mysterious ties to Uncle Lester and who seems to be competing for the inheritance. Soon, Alton is drawn into a decades-long secret and even learns to love bridge along the way.
So, here's what I really like about the book - the characters. Alton is a great character. He's believable - smart, funny, sarcastic, and inquisitive. From the very beginning, you're drawn into Alton's story and really like him as a person. Uncle Lester is the perfect, curmudgeonly old man who really does have a big heart. And then there's spunky Toni Castaneda - the granddaughter of Alton's sister-in-law who is the center of a very intriguing and sad mystery.
Throughout the book, Sachar inserts bridge lessons. I have to admit that I found them interesting at first, but by the end, I was skipping over them altogether. I'm more of a visual learner, and reading about different hands and plays and tactics was a bit much for me and what I think may turn some off from the book. He does, however, at the end of each "bridge lesson" include a short summary for those who don't want to read the more detailed section. And of course, he pokes a bit of fun at himself by including a whale symbol at the beginning of the each lesson - a nice little nod to the often over-detailed Moby Dick.
But, it's not a book about bridge. Bridge happens to be the element of the book that weaves the story and the characters together, but behind the bridge lessons, there's a beautiful story of love, friendship, family, and the search for truth.
Reading level: Young Adult | Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (May 11, 2010) | ISBN-13: 978-0385736626 | Source: Review copy from publisher
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