I've had The Cardturner by Louis Sachar for about two months but only just read it because I didn't think a book that centered around bridge would hold my interest. How wrong I was. If you've looked at this book and thought the same thing, ignore your inner voice and read this book.
The book is about young Alton who helps his blind grand-uncle play bridge because Alton's parents are trying to suck up to the rich old guy before he dies. The story is slow and quiet and brilliant. Bridge takes up a huge chunk of the story, but Sachar wisely allows you to decide how much. He uses an ingenious system to let you know when bridge talk might come up. If you're interested, you can read it. If not, you can skip it and won't miss anything. I found myself skipping it at first but reading more of it as I went along. There are also footnotes and diagrams to help you get a grip on what's going on. And the nice thing is that Alton's confusion matched my own, so I learned as he learned.
More than bridge though, this is a story about young love and old love and what family really is. The only thing I'd knock points off for is the characterization of Alton's parents. They never moved beyond their greedy motives, into real people. I realize some people are like that, but I would have liked to have seen some depth in them. The young people in the book grow, the old people grow, but Alton's parents remain shallow throughout, which was a shame. However, since they remained in the periphery for the entire book, it really isn't a big deal.
I haven't read Sachar's other book, HOLES, but now I'm going to. And if you haven't read The Cardturner, you really should. It's a rare YA book that hasn't got explosions or over-the-top drama or monsters. It's got card games and beautiful characters and a lot of heart.