It pains me to have to give this book a low rating. I remember loving Louis Sachar’s books while growing up, especially the uproariously funny Wayside School series and the unexpectedly touching There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom. I was delighted to see that he’d written The Cardturner as a book for young adults, and I couldn’t wait to experience his witty wordsmithing as a grownup.
Sadly, though, it turns out that The Cardturner has absolutely nothing in common with the Sachar books mentioned above. I anticipated a high-energy tale chock-full of zany characters and wacky situations; what I got was a calm, leisurely story about the game of bridge.
Yes, you read that correctly. Ninety-five percent of the “action” in this story takes place at a bridge table. There are even several sections devoted wholly to explaining the rules and techniques of bridge, with bridge diagrams included. While I appreciated Sachar’s attempts to help me and other readers understand the basics of how bridge is played, it’s an extremely complicated game. I found myself skipping sections of explanation after the first few chapters because much of it was over my head.
I suppose it’s a bit unfair of me to dismiss this book as only being about bridge. There are nice themes about family, friendship, the nastiness of gossip, and the importance of not believing everything you hear. Several scenes are sweet and poignant, and all of the characters (with the exception of Alton’s parents) are likeable and well written. Still, I was expecting a little more oomph and pizazz, and I didn’t get it.