Playing the Cards You're Dealt
by Varian Johnson read by Dion Graham
Anthony Joplin has been dealt a tough hand. He’s short. Hence the nickname Ant. He wants to play in the community Spades tournament, but his partner dropped out. Ant’s only option is a girl. She's a shrewd card player. But she's a girl!
However, he has a more pressing problem: his father is addicted to gambling and alcohol. Ant finds dad staying up all night, playing online poker and taking swigs of some mystery liquid in a red plastic cup. His first reaction is to ignore and rationalize his father’s behavior, then to make excuses and try to protect his dad.
He is torn. When is silence the wrong response? Is keeping his father's addictions secret the act of a loyal son? Would talking to his mother about his father be a betrayal?
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Ant's older brother discloses a crucial moment in Ant's childhood that demonstrates the extent of his father's illness. His mother and brother remain a constant support. While they love Ant's father, they cannot condone his behavior.
The heart of the story is a boy’s emerging realization that addiction is tearing a huge hole in the fabric of his family. Ant must come to terms with his father’s addictions. Can you love someone when trust is broken?
Playing With the Cards You're Dealt covers a lot of territory: Johnson neatly weaves contemporary middle school life with heart wrenching effects of addiction. It’s winning combination.