Monday, July 26, 2010

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Title: The Cardturner
Author: Louis Sachar
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: All Ages
Number of Pages: Hardcover- 336 Pages

The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him for 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 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 this 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. -Summary from inside jacket flap

Armed with successful projects like Holes and Small Steps, Louis Sacher really had to work hard to bring something new to the table and please readers with high expectations for The Cardturner. He exceeded my expectations by a long run. While Louis Sacher had a history of crafting great stories with funny, unique, and mesmerizing voice, I must confess I initially thought The Cardturner would just be a 3.5 Hoot novel. In my mind, the synopsis provided assigned the adjectives "simple" and "most-likely-uninteresting" to the book, and so it didn't particularly spark my interest. Hearing of a boy who just turned cards for his rich, blind, uncle in hopes of receiving a load of money in inheritance, seemed like a book with not much prospects. But seeing that the author was Louis Sachar, I at least owed him so much of giving the book a go. Impressively, this novel had really proved itself as I journeyed amidst its pages and I am ashamed for even questioning it.

You would think that a book about the card game bridge would be incredibly boring and slow. Well, it is quite the contrary so erase the very thought immediately. Sachar truly has a gift for storytelling, for the story is quite captivating for readers even if they don't know the first thing about bridge and he made the game itself intriguing. He expresses the point that it is not just any other ordinary card game, it is one that requires strategic thinking, efficient communication with your partner, and the right mind set. The story is told through the perspective of Alton Richards, and so as Alton learns the many rules of bridge, you as a reader learns them too. Sachar interlaces a story of manipulation, secrets, fulfilling deeds, and friendship with simple, technical bridge descriptions. The bridge jabber is easy enough to understand and Alton even gives you the option to skip the "bridge manual" parts by providing a basic summary box at the end of the chapter for those who couldn't care less about the game. Personally, I find it quite interesting and Sachar words the explanations nicely so that I am able to follow along with ease. Actually after I read the book, I really wanted to put his directions to the test and attempt to play it myself.

Sachar is proclaimed for his wonderful yet wry sense of humor and in The Cardturner, he doesn't disappoint. The chapters are short and keep you turning the pages. And like I said before, Louis Sachar is indeed a fine storyteller. I don't even know how to explain it any way else. All the characters are fairly well developed. The cast is lovable including the good-hearted yet smart-mouthed Alton, his old uncle Trapp, and the shy and sweet Toni Castaneda. Even the more irksome characters, like Alton's mom, were fun to disfavor. Narrated by the main character, Alton Richards, readers are able to see life through his eyes, listen to his every thought, and become attached to him from the very start. Throughout the novel, I "watched" as Alton grew from just that boy who got dumped, to a caring man who carries out the unfulfilled wishes of his uncle. I loved every minute of it and it was a ride I wouldn't soon forget. I recommend it to everyone and once you flip over the last page, I'm sure you'll relish the savoriness of The Cardturner just as I did.

Cover: 3.5/5 - I find the layout and color scheme of the cover quite admireable. The blue and orange contrast and compliment each other nicely and I love the spade for the "a" in The Cardturner. The cover is simple and eye catching, however, I am not sure what the boy on the cover (I'm assuming is main character, Alton) in front of the train station with a book over his face, has to do with anything. I assure you, not once did the book describe anyone lying on their back in a train station. Though I like the picture, I think it could've been a picture that relates more to the book itself.

4.5 Hoots

Source: Won it for free! Thank heavens for Random Buzzers :)

WARNING: The paragraph below doesn't really tell you anything about the book or my thoughts on it. Only a little bit towards the end. The following is just an anecdote that I thought I would share. If you don't feel like reading about my life, just skip the paragraph.

The opportunity to read this presented itself in the most unusual of ways. It was just a typical weekday and Okapi and her dad, Wahoon, had just dropped me off at my apt. There was a man lugging a drawer chest through the front door, so I went past him, grateful that I didn't have to go through the hassle of digging through my duffel bag to find my keys to unlock the front door. I strolled up the stairs and stood outside the door of my apt. I noticed two packages from Random Buzzers laying at the foot of the door. I surrendered my hand into my bag, my fingers searching for the key. I came out empty. My mother had not returned home yet from work and she wasn't due until a few hours later. I was going to be locked out for a while. And so, I propped myself against the wall and stripped open the packages. Two books were set before me, including The Cardturner. Basically, this book saved my afternoon by swapping what would have been two hours of pure boredom, with two hours of living in the fascinating world of Alton Richards.


  1. PWN! I enjoy your life story and review. Admittedly, I am procrastinating on this book because it radiates '3.5 hoots or less', but now I am sure to read it.

  2. I loved it. I wasn't expecting to, but I did. I haven't written my review yet, so I just skimmed yours. Like you, I did find myself wondering where the cover came from...

  3. I actually liked Alton's mom in the end. It was Alton's dad who I strongly strongly disliked.