Friday, December 16, 2011

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman
by Meg Wolitzer
Dutton, 2011. 294 pgs. Juvenile Fiction

When Duncan Dorfman moves to a new school and a new town, his mother asks him not to use his secret power--he can read anything with the fingers of his left hand, with his eyes closed. Duncan agrees but soon breaks his promise when someone throws a piece of baloney at him during lunch and it sticks to his shirt. Lunch Meat Dorfman is born, a truly uncool guy whose only friend is an Asian kid no one else will sit with at lunch. So he shows Andrew Tanizaki his skill and the rich, bigmouth, mean Carl of the school Scrabble Team suddenly becomes interested in a kid who could tell what tiles he was about to draw out of the bag. Carl schools Duncan in the finer points of Scrabble and they head off to the national Youth Scrabble Tournament, along with some other kids we meet in intervening chapters: April, the only brainy kid in a family of jocks; Nate, whose father lost in the final in the YST many years earlier and now insists Nate win to fulfill his dream vicariously, and so on. Will Duncan use his power to cheat? Will Nate win, and if not, what will happen to him and his father? And is there any possibility that April will run into the boy she met at a hotel swimming party a couple of years earlier, whom she taught to play Scrabble? Most importantly of all, what could possibly go wrong when a bunch of Scrabble players visit the Funswamp Amusement Park? The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman is not only laugh out loud funny, but has serious things to say about integrity, friendship, sportsmanship, and parent-child relationships. Meg Wolitzer, an award-winning author of grown-up fiction, shows she can bring it to the younger dudes as well. Recommended for grades 6 and up.

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