Round 1, Match 1: As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth vs. The Card Turner: A Novel about a King, a Queen, and a JokerMarch 14, 2011
|As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth
by Lynne Rae Perkins
Green Willow Books/HarperCollins
|The Card Turner
by Louis Sachar
Delacorte Books/Random House
Suppose you want to torture me, what do you do? You give me two excellent books and you ask me to pick one. What criteria should I use? “Pick the one that was most fun to read,” says a voice. “Impossible”, says another. They were both fun in different ways. Suppose you’re sixteen-years-old and you get to spend a day at the beach with the girl you’ve had a crush on for a year. That’s like the kind of fun you have when you read As Easy as Falling of the Face of the Earth by Lynn Rae Perkins. Suppose you’re an astronomer and on a clear night you see a star you’ve never seen before. That’s like the kind of fun you have when you read The Cardturner by Louis Sachar.
So if “fun” is an impossible criteria, how about plot? This too is impossible. I lost (and found) myself in both books. I couldn’t put the books down. In each case, I was hooked from the first line. In As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth, sixteen-year-old Ry is on his way to summer camp when he finds out camp is canceled and the train he’s on takes off without him and he’s stranded in the middle of Montana. He needs to get back to his home in Wisconsin where his grandfather is house and dog sitting while his parents are vacationing in the Caribbean. He walks to the nearest town where he meets Del, a man capable of fixing just about anything. Together they drive, fly and boat in search of Ry’s grandfather and parents. The plot is a series of exciting adventures encountered by Ry and Del. The suspense of each happening propels us roller-coaster-like forward and upwards, downwards and around. We hold our breath with each plunge.
In The Cardturner, seventeen-year-old Alton is asked to be the eyes for his blind, bridge-playing uncle. Uncle Lester is rich and in poor health and Alton’s parents have an eye on a future inheritance. But Uncle Lester already has a young protégé – the beautiful Toni for whom Alton readily falls. We turn the pages quickly. Will Alton fall in love with bridge? Can the pair of Uncle Lester and Alton conquer the various bridge tournaments they enter? Will Alton win Toni’s heart despite the fact that she favors Alton’s best friend? Then there is Uncle Lester’s mysterious past and many other twists, I can’t divulge because I don’t want to ruin this book for you.
How about that ineffable thing called style? As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth comes close to poetry at times. It has these lulling rhythms, these vivid images, and most of all this sense of warm humor. Now and then the narrator winks at you like an old friend. I feel at home in the book, a friendly voice reaches out to me and brings me to its fold. How wonderful for Lynne Rae Perkins to write so simply yet so evocatively. The book enveloped me with its ease.
Precise, lucid. These are the words that come to mind when I think of The Cardturner’s style. No metaphors or similes, the writing clear as water. The first person narration is totally in sync with Alton’s voice, with his character. Style here hides itself so that story alone will shine.
If not style, then what about courage? Yes, courage exists in books. And one can sometimes gauge the book’s worth by its fortitude. Lynne Rae Perkins’ courage is in daring to write a book with so much goodness, with heroes young and old and truths that we can live by. Louis Sachar’s courage is in daring to write a love story about the intellect, about bridge, and pulling it off. His courage is in writing a book with a philosophical bent that can be read on various levels.
So what criteria do I have to judge? Which book is more complete? Both. Which did I learn the most from? Both, in different ways. Which book touched me the most?
Both, in many ways. Which book will be around five years from now? Both. “But Francisco, you have to pick one,” says the voice (louder this time).
Alas, so I must. I pick The Cardturner. For its elegant, readable, complexity.
– Francisco X. Stork
And the Winner of our first match is…
… THE CARDTURNER
This is torture, huh? Try reading about Marcelo navigating the ethical minefield of the Real World or a pair of Death Warriors, one with a personal vendetta, the other with a terminal illness. So, I’m happy to return the favor by having Francisco judge one of the more difficult match-ups in the first round. Unlike Criss Cross, plenty of stuff happens in As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth. We don’t read Perkins for plot anyway, but rather for her wonderful sense of humor, her delightful language, and her keen insight into the alien landscape of the teenage mind. Sachar, on the other hand, made quite a name for himself with the sophisticated plotting of Holes and he returns to that strength here in The Cardturner, although I did feel like something was off about the resolution. One thing we can all probably agree on, however: neither author writes fast enough!
— Commentator Jonathan Hunt