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Title: The C♠rdturner
Author: Louis Sachar

The C♠rdturner is a fun and engaging story about playing bridge. Yes really. Well, partly. It is also about having a crazy family and a rich uncle and possibly a girlfriend. But mostly it's about bridge.

It is also a young adult novel by Louis Sachar, the rightly famous author of Holes, and way back when, the Wayside School books. It is ever more apparent that Sachar does not have a predictable style, writing very well in a number of different voices. Thus The C♠rdturner, while very well written, it not really much like Holes (or it's somewhat disappointing sequel, Small Steps). It is not as silly as some of his other books, and is perhaps written at a slightly higher reading level than previous works.

17-year-old Alton Richards has always known that his uncle (great-uncle, actually) is extremely rich. His family has had him suck up to his uncle Lester since before he can remember, in hopes of getting a sizable inheritance. In recent years Uncle Lester has not been doing well, loosing his sight and generally succumbing to old age. Alton's family hasn't seen him or been able to talk to him on the phone -- despite constantly pestering his housekeeper -- until one day Uncle Lester calls specifically to talk to Alton. He wants to offer him a job as his cardturner.

It emerges that Uncle Lester is a fanatic bridge player, so fanatic that not even going blind will stop him. Alton's job is to tell his uncle the cards in his hand (just once, at the beginning of the hand), and then play the cards as his uncle tells him to, no questions asked. This last part is very important; the last cardturner lost her job when she questioned a move, and thus clued in the other team that Uncle Lester had a better card in his hand. This previous cardturner is also Alton's... um... ex-second cousin, who still plays bridge, and is rather cute and charming and schizophrenic. Yes, literally.

And on top of all this, Alton starts to learn something about his family's surprisingly eccentric and unpleasant history. And bridge, which is part of it. As Alton learns about bridge, we do too, which is actually fun. Of course, Sachar knows that he is writing a Moby Dickish kind of book -- that is, one that goes off into long technical descriptions of something some of his readers might find boring -- so he kindly marks the sections that are overly technical and can be skipped by the reader who is not really into card games. I don't recommend skipping them, but they do get a bit involved.

This is a great book, and I pretty much recommend it to anyone who likes a good read. However, the bridge jargon and symbols and diagrams do require you to think, which could make this a challenging book for some younger readers. I would expect this to be enjoyed by kids people 13 and up, but it will be easier going if they have some experience with trick-taking games like spades or hearts. And it may even convince you to learn bridge.

Published: 2010, Delacorte Press
ISBN: 978-0-385-73662-6

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