By Louis Sachar
2010, Delacorta Books for Young Readers, 352 pages
The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him to hook up with 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 in 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 his own life. — Amazon.com description
It's got a cute bit of romance, I laughed out loud several times, and I was philosophically challenged by some of Alton and Trapp's conversations. But the best thing about this book is that it is Sachar's love letter to a hobby he loves—bridge.
I KNOW. It's a novel about the old-man card game bridge, guys. So, you know, not typically something that screams "YA demographic." Not necessarily my cup o' tea.
But, omg, it is YA, and it is great!
Sachar accomplishes exactly what he hopes to, I think: Tell a thoughtful coming-of-age story that explores, as the book jacket says, "the disparity between what you know and what you think you know" and maybe, along the way, get a new generation interested in bridge.
Recognizing that not everyone really wants to get interested in bridge (snoozefest!), he also offers a little warning sign when bridge-heavy content is coming up and gives a little recap box at the end of it for those who like to skip ahead. I'm so proud of myself that I actually waded through it and tried to make sense of it. Do I want to play bridge now? Nah. Do I respect it now? Yes! He really does prove, through Alton's story, that bridge isn't just a game, it's a mental sport.
Bonus: It's refreshing to read a book told from a male perspective, and Alton is hilarious. Such an honest and well-written story.
You might also like:
Holes also by Louis Sachar (HOLES! Do you not love this book?! And the movie!)
Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford, which I am reviewing next-ish!