Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

 At first glance, Duncan Dorfman, April Blunt, and Nate Saviano don't seem to have much in common. Duncan is trying to look after his single mom and adjust to life in a new town while managing his newfound Scrabble superpower - he can feel words and pictures beneath his fingers and tell what they are without looking. April is pining for a mystery boy she met years ago and striving to be seen as more than a nerd in her family of jocks. And homeschooled Nate is struggling to meet his father's high expectations for success. When these three unique kids are brought together at the national Youth Scrabble Tournament, each with a very different drive to win, their paths cross and stories intertwine. 

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer is a book about Scrabble. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. In fact you could use it as a how to manual in learning to play Scrabble and play it well. There is a list of all the acceptable two letter words and another list of the most common bingo set up words that are accepted. If you don't know anything about playing Scrabble prior to reading this book you will when you are finished with it. Now I LOVE Scrabble. Seriously. It is my favorite game and I was rather looking forward to a book about kids who enjoyed it enough to play at tournament level. I wanted to know more about the kids and less about the game (which I already knew all about). The book is certainly fun. There is plenty of awkward 7th gradeness in it that most young readers will be able to relate to the characters. There is some adventure and just enough magic to make it not straight up realistic fiction. (Though whys and wherefores of this were not explained and it was one of the things that felt extraneous to me.) I came away feeling like the book had a great deal of set up for very little pay off in the end, particularly given the emotional upheavals the three main characters experience. I was also left wondering if a child reader would be willing to wade through all the Scrabble rules to get to the story.

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