Monday, November 22, 2010

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Reviewed by Liesl

Published: 2010

It's about: Bridge. Or, more accurately, bridge from a teenager's point of view. Narrator Alton Richards isn't doing so hot in his life. He doesn't have a job, and his girlfriend left him for his best friend. His mother takes advantage of this fact by insisting he assists his very rich, very blind great-uncle Lester Trapp in playing his favorite card game, bridge, in hopes that this will persuade her uncle to include the family in his will. Alton agrees to do it, and while he has no interest in bridge at first, he comes to learn more about bridge, as well as his uncle and the people his uncle interacts with, including the kinda cute, kinda crazy Toni Castaneda who also plays bridge and has a strange relationship with Trapp. Alton includes rules about bridge throughout the book, explaining what tricks are as well as other bridge slang.

I thought: I liked Alton. I liked the fact that he wasn’t some crabby, surly fire-breathing teenager full of defiance and rage, but instead he was a quieter guy who lets things happen as they will. He’s funny, too. His wry commentary on the world around him and the people he meets made me laugh. He definitely had a problem with speaking up and with saying things tactfully, but when he messed up or something went wrong, he was still endearing because he wanted to make things right. His narration of the novel included bits of info about bridge (although he includes a little picture of a whale in front of it to warn you if you want to skip that section. I’ll admit I skipped some), which was sometimes helpful and sometimes got overlong and in the way of the story.

Alton’s relationship with his uncle, to whom he refers to as Trapp, is one I could relate to. I could understand Alton’s humiliation from his uncle’s impatience and gruff demeanor, but I could see that he still respected Trapp. Alton’s relationship with the other characters changed throughout the story because he was changing, and it was relieving to come to understand all the misunderstandings that went on with Alton's family and Trapp's life.

My favorite thing about this novel, however, is Louis Sachar’s use of storytelling. If you’ve ever read Holes, you’ll know that Sachar had three stories going on: one main plot, and two other subplots. I loved the way he wove those stories together and the story gained so much soul, so much life. The Cardturner is similar to that. As Alton becomes familiar with the game of bridge and gets to know the people who’ve been playing with Trapp for over thirty years, he is told stories and gains new information about Trapp and other characters, and that’s where the book really thrived for me.

Verdict: Shelf.

Reading Recommendations: Really, anyone can read this book. In typical Sachar fashion, its many, many chapters are short and rather easy and interesting to read.

Warnings: It swears, I think. Nothing else, though.

Favorite excerpts: "I don't know how much money he had, but he was rich enough that he never had to be nice to anyone."

'When I became a teenager I felt silly telling him he was my favorite uncle, although my mother still urged me to do so. I'd say things like 'Hey, how's it goin'?' and he'd grunt some response. He might ask me a question about school. I imagine it was a great relief to both of us when my mother took back the phone. Our conversations always left me feeling embarrassed, and just a little bit creepy."