I went to a poker party once, and I totally stunned the dealer (who had been hired to teach all the party-goers how to play) with my apparently innate acumen. Unfortunately, that acumen had an expiration date of roughly 27 minutes into the party, when I lost ALL my chips and had to comfort myself with a cool drink under a heat lamp.
On top of which, I still can’t remember which hand beats what.
So, despite the winning streak (well, one win could be a very short streak, right?) that brought an autographed copy of eluper 's Big Slick (plus a very snappy poker set) right to my front door, I was a little nervous about launching into the book.
It’s realistic—I’m a sucker for fantasy.
It’s about a teenage boy, and I’m not sure I’m ready yet for that kind of insight.
Poker is integral to the plot.
Journeying along with Eric (and his MC Andrew), I learned a lot:
Realistic stories can still be fantastic.
Boys are people too. Sometimes, anyway.
I still don’t understand poker, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. Plus the names for different kinds of hands—which Eric uses as chapter titles—are hilarious and/ or clever. Like “ajax” (an ace and a jack), “Maxwell Smart” (an eight and a six), and “prom night” (a six and a nine of the same suit).
For a writer who often shelters her characters far too much, this book was a lesson in what kind of trouble fictional people should be allowed to stumble into. Andrew’s got it all—a complicated relationship with his father, who has anger issues; a first sexual experience; an addiction; and some crime. Though the addiction and the crime inspired by it take center stage for the first part of the book, it’s Andrew’s relationships with his parents and younger brother, his best friend, and the girl in his life (and their relationships with other, equally complicated people) that are the heart of the book—that cause him the most anguish, and that inspire him to resolve his challenges in creative and totally fitting ways.
Oh, and did I mention the funny? Just one tidbit before I let you go grab a copy of your own.
Andrew, whose father runs a dry cleaning store, does not want to do dry cleaning for the rest of his life. While complaining about the chemicals, he speculates about the headstone that will result from the early death they cause him:
He may have died early
but dang our clothes were clean