Genre: Realistic Fiction
Publishing Date: September 30th, 2008 by Atheneum Books
Summary: When Huck Porter's dad suddenly dies, it feels like nothing will ever make sense again. Huck's "best friend" thinks that Huck should just get over it, the girl he likes won't give him the time of day, and his mom now works all hours at a roadside diner to make ends meet. The only thing that still makes sense for Huck is the game his dad taught him, the game they spent hours playing together: Texas hold'em.
Worse than all of that, though, is Huck's math teacher, Mr. Abbott -- a hungry card shark with an ego to match his appetite. He now wears the local poker tournament's first prize, a silver watch that Huck's dad wore proudly for three years. So Huck hatches a plan to knock Abbott off his throne and win back the watch. Only, bluffing his way into the tournament will mean lying to everyone Huck knows. But as Huck gets deeper in the tournament and starts to lose himself in the cards, he begins to wonder who he'll be when the last hand is played.
Raw and gritty, Paul Volponi's novel about grief, family, and poker is an adrenaline rush that starts with a bang and doesn't let up until the final page is turned. A coming-of-age story set at a card table, The Hand You're Dealt will leave readers wondering what they would risk in a game
What I Liked: So it turns out that I read this back last year around September, but I never got around to reviewing it, so I'd like to say that before people who end up picking up a copy and reading the book flame me for not being perfectly accurate. Anyways, as I recall, even though this book is marketed toward young adults, it is easily more kid-friendly than some of the other "middle grade" books out there. It honestly is just a thriller that may be slightly too intense to pronounce middle grade. Another thing that I'd like to point out is that it is a plot that centers around the "sport" (or game) of poker. This book is unique because it appealed to my love of the game of poker. While personally, I don't play for money or even for fun, I understand the ins and outs of the game and often recreational-ly watch hands in my free time. One of my favorite things about the game is that it appeals to all ends of the spectrum. Old (there was a 96 year old in the world series of poker main event) young, professional and newcomer. 99% of the game is dominated by professionals because it involves pure strategy and memorizing when to do what based on what you have as well as being the best actor you can and yet, even if you have no idea what you're doing, the 1% of poker makes it constantly exciting because that 1% is all luck, meaning anyone can win. Sorry for my little rant on why poker is the best (playing for fun, not gambling your life savings to the game), but I feel like it deserves the recognition it doesn't get. This book helps shine some light on the game because in a very fun and exciting way, highlights the game of poker.
What I Didn't Like: Of course, you, as the potential reader of this book, should note that this book isn't perfectly PG. I can't remember if there is any blatant profanity (maybe? just be aware there's a good chance there is), but there are some pretty intense "fight" scenes (not brawls, just arguments), so if you don't want 7 year old Timmy exposed to that kind of stuff, just be aware.
Rating: 9.2 Out of Ten
Why? It's an amazing book, but after I finished it, I felt like there was something lacking. I don't know what, but I just had a feeling it was missing something.