Friday, May 16, 2014

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman, by Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer. The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2011. 297 pages. ISBN 9780525423041.

Duncan Dorfman learns that he has a "power" early on in this fun tale about a middle-school grader who's trying to fit in at a new school. Duncan can read text through his fingertips, and while he tries to keep it a secret at first, he decides to reveal his power at school as a way to make himself stand out. He soon draws the attention of the school's scrabble whiz, Carl, who begins to groom him as a scrabble partner thinking that Duncan's skills and power can help them win the Youth Scrabble Tournament.

Duncan has to make a lot of difficult decisions, but is willing to do just about anything to go to the tournament with Carl. Carl's mother pays for the trip and asks Duncan to pay her back by serving as a model in a cigarette advertising campaign. Carl goes along with this, but soon his conscience starts to bother him and he wonders if he's doing the right thing. He decides to try to win the tournament without using his power, telling Carl that he'll use it only when it's absolutely necessary. But can he bring himself to cheat?

This is a well-written and enjoyable exploration of moral quandaries for middle-school aged children. I recommend it for adults who enjoy children's literature as well.

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