- The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman
Dorky Duncan Dorfman wants to make a place for himself in his peer group; nonathletic April Blunt wants to prove to her jock family that Scrabble is a sport too; skateboarder Nate Saviano wants to get his Scrabble-obsessed dad off his back. These three, along with their partners, travel to the Youth Scrabble Tournament (airing on Thwap! TV) in Florida, where they meet, compete, and struggle with [End Page 118] their secrets—especially Duncan, who has the supernatural ability to read text with his fingers, allowing him to cheat like mad in a Scrabble draw. Wolitzer writes with a solid matter-of-factness that brims with unpretentious wit (“The kids around the table howled; it was like lunchtime at a school for wolves”), and she balances the essential warm-heartedness of her story with an acknowledgment of human frailty and unkindness. Though there’s fantasy in the notion of Duncan’s superpower, that’s a bit of a red herring, since the book focuses mostly on his not using it; instead, there’s Scrabble-playing action and deftly portrayed human dynamics. Characters are drawn economically but effectively, with game teammates vivid as well (April’s funny, ingenious partner Lucy is particularly deserving of her own book), and the many effectively balanced subplots (ranging from Duncan’s growing interest in his mysterious, ostensibly late father to April’s search for a boy she met on vacation) ensure everybody has rich personal lives in addition to their tournament goals. Fans of Konigsburg’s The View from Saturday (BCCB 11/96) will find this mixture of competition and comity just to their liking.