“The Cardturner”

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar 

Louis Sachar, author of The Cardturner, is also the author of Holes.

Don’t let this book become an orphan! Check it out:

The Cardturner is original and totally engaging with its dark family secrets, betrayals by a best friend, teen romance, and the eventual connections made between the generations. So why am I worried about its being an orphan? Because the game of bridge is mentioned in the blurb on the back of the book, and I just know students will see that and walk away.


The sections of The Cardturner that discuss what’s going on in bridge games or in bridge tournaments are indicated with the image of a whale. When you see the whale, you know you can skip the section if you aren’t interested in learning anything about the smart plays that smart folks make in bridge. (The whale is a fun image—Alton had to read Moby-Dick in his English class. He thinks it’s a great adventure story, but the adventure keeps going on hold as the author, Herman Melville, describes the waling ship. So the whale is his secret code to the reader –skip or read.) I found the bridge descriptions interesting because they show the mind games people are playing and what great memories they need to have to do so. But if mind games aren’t your thing, skip these sections, and you’ll still have a great story.

Uncle Lester who is called Trapp by all his friends—it’s his last name and a good indicator of what a great card player he is—has a mind like a steel trap, as the saying goes. Even though he has become blind, he’s still a great bridge player. However, he needs a ‘cardturner,’ someone to play the cards he wants to put down. Alton (yeah, he hates his name), Trapp’s nephew, is given that opportunity, and his parents pressure him not to blow it. That’s because Trapp is rich and Alton’s parents want a big, big piece of the pie when Trapp kicks the bucket—which they believe he will soon do, judging from his state of physical health.

Alton’s in a pretty bad place emotionally because his best friend is dating his ex-girlfriend, whom he still has feeling for. Fortunately, in being Trapp’s cardturner, Alton meets Toni Castaneda, a girl better suited to him. But Alton’s parents tell him that Toni is crazy and needs a psychiatrist as well as drugs to even function. They say craziness runs in the Castaneda family, as evidenced by Toni’s grandmother’s story: she was a young woman married to a US senator, who did such bizarre things (like switch clothes with the milkman) that she had to be institutionalized and then committed suicide. But, oh, there’s a lot more to that story than the petty, envious parents know! You’ll start to wonder who is really the crazy one in all this.

Every teen I know who read Holes back in the day loved it—an all-time favorite book. Think—The Cardturner is by the same author. It’s the same great kind of stuff—just for an older audience—you.


About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
This entry was posted in Family Problems, Fiction, Romance, Young Adult Literature. Bookmark the permalink.

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