STONE COLD by Pete Hautman


Age Range: 12 - 15
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A teenager discovers an unexpected talent and runs with it in this perceptive cautionary tale from Hautman (Mr. Was, 1996). Denn Doyle discovers a quicker way to raise the money for a used car than summer lawn work when an acquaintance invites him into a poker game. He wins, and keeps on winning, and soon he’s winning so much that he lets his friend Murky take over the mowing business completely. Armed with a fake ID, he becomes a fixture at the local casino, winning over $10,000 in one glorious 30-hour visit. Money has lost its glamour; Denn loves the game’s ebb and flow, and spotting the “tells,” or gestures, through which other players betray themselves. Although Hautman trots out some typecast teaching characters—the wise old card sharp, the sober but alcoholic Irish priest, and Murky, who becomes the worst sort of compulsive gambler—he also captures Denn’s calculated, almost inhuman concentration “in the zone,” and his profound satisfaction afterwards. In a climax that reads like the Big Game in an above-average sports novel, Denn returns to the table (against his parents’ wishes) to attempt to rescue Murky, and in a high-stakes confrontation with a professional gambler, makes an absolute killing. He ends up owning the town’s finest gourmet restaurant; still only 16, he waits in his office for the next game, the next hand. Readers will understand too well how empty his triumph is. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-689-81759-2
Page count: 163pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998


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