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The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,040 Ratings  ·  217 Reviews
At first glance, Duncan Dorfman, April Blunt, and Nate Saviano don't seem to have much in common. Duncan is trying to look after his single mom and adjust to life in a new town while managing his newfound Scrabble superpower - he can feel words and pictures beneath his fingers and tell what they are without looking. April is pining for a mystery boy she met years ago and s ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
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This book entered my life in a timely manner, as I've been cheating my way through several games of Words with Friends. The type of sporting book I can really get behind.
Duncan is a social outcast who doesn't have much going for him. He and his mother just moved to Drilling Falls, PA after she lost her job in their old town. Now they live with his aunt, and she works at Thriftee Mike's. Duncan sits at the outcasts table and tries to stay un-noticed, but when he shows his secret talent to his one friend, the ability to read with his fingertips, the school bully and Scrabble champion notices, and wants Duncan on his team for the Youth Scrabble Tournament (YST).

Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
Years ago a friend donated a copy of a book to the library in which I worked. This book was supposed to boost SAT scores by giving students access to the "15-cent word" vocabulary they'd need in context, so all over the pages were words underlined to indicate HERE IS AN SAT WORD. Oddly enought, no one every borrowed this book, even those avidly preparing for the exams. Why do I mention this? Because this book feels the same to me: let's get kids into Scrabble, fitting a story in around lists of ...more
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book about a boy with a "power" for knowing what's written on a page(or a Scrabble tile)simply by touching it. Another boy wants to harness the power, by making him his teammate at a national Scrabble tournament. Duncan meets many new friends who are participating in the tournament for their own various reasons, some not so willingly, and he has to determine whether his desire to win is worth the guilt of cheating against these worthy competitors. The assorted stories of the char ...more
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014, kids
I would almost give this three stars, but I just couldn't. I liked the characters and I appreciated that everyone had different motivations for wanting to win the Scrabble tournament. I was also interested in finding out who would win in the end.

So my first problem is that Duncan's super power was basically pointless. It was a plot device to make Carl want to be his partner, but other than that served no real purpose. In a book with no other elements of fantasy, it just didn't fit. Second, the c
Aug 25, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is about a series of kids who compete in a national tournament. Each kid has their own little subplot. Nate is forced to play by his dad, who lost at a former Scrabble tournament. April is looking for a kid she met years ago at a pool on vacation who loved Scrabble. And Duncan has a special power that he can read words using only his fingertips. The book was extremely fast paced, and as a Scrabble fan, I enjoyed all the trivia and references. As a teen novel, it wasn't that dramatic, a ...more
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is perfect for middle school readers. It's the story of a group of smart kids from around the US who come together for the Youth Scrabble Tournament -- each with his or her backstory, each with his or her secret reasons for being in the tournament. I enjoyed this book a lot ... in large part, I admit, because I love Scrabble. But also because it showcases Meg Wolitzer's ability to weave together disparate storylines in believable ways -- even when it results in some impressive coincide ...more
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Maybe it's just my love of (or obsession with) playing Words With Friends, but I really enjoyed this book about six kids and their adventures in the world of Scrabble tournaments. They are each there for different reasons, each searching for something different, that they may or may not be able to find through Scrabble. I enjoyed reading how they found things to appreciate in each other, no matter how different they all seemed at first. I know exactly which Scrabble-loving 6th grader I am going ...more
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I’ve always gravitated to children’s books about characters with extraordinary powers. I’m not talking about the iconic Batman and Superman. I love reading about kids who are somewhat nerdy but have a special talent. Now I can add The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman to my list of favorite "power" novels such as Savy, Powerless and The Trouble with Jenny's Ear. Duncan is faced with moral choices as to when to use his ability to feel letters beneath his fingertips. The group of new friends he makes a ...more
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
so far so good, my daughter is only a couple chapters in but she is likeing it :)

My daughter loved it, she says that people who like words, and scrable in particular would love this book. We played a few games of scrabble ourselves while she read it! For either boys or girls, some of it is quiet funny. She says she thinks it is for 8-12 year olds. She recommends it for sure.
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens
Wolitzer scores a triple word bonus with her first novel for young readers.The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman follows three, mostly ordinary 12-year olds competing in the National Youth Scrabble Tournament. Everyone has their own unique reason for playing scrabble and wanting to win. A lot of fun and vocabulary-building to boot!
Craig Pittman
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining YA novel that manages to dramatize playing Scrabble (no easy task) as well as deal with some serious daddy issues. Read this aloud to my kids as a bedtime book and they got a big kick out of it, particularly the part where the contestants are (almost) all stuck in a dark, damp theme park ride and one young one shouts out, "I have to urinate!"
Feb 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Misfit middle-schooler makes a place for himself, against the backdrop of the Youth Scrabble Tournament. The writing and plot are admittedly uneven, but this book has a good heart and we enjoyed reading it.
Mrs. Nelson's
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Another wonderful adult author whose foray into kid lit is a rousing success! Wolitzer's fresh, quirky adventure reminded me of "The View From Saturday", while still remaining unique. I couldn't put it down!
--Review by Lauren
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exceptional people, ethical quandaries, separate threads coming together . . . there's a lot to like about this book.
Aug 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Well-crafted story, great Scrabble detais (why no nod to Stefan Fatsis's Word Play?)and finely drawn characters make this a page-turning winner.
Cathy Blackler
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Scrabble lovers, fans of the underdog, and those who loved The View from Saturday and The Wednesday Wars will love Wolitzer's story about the power of believing in yourself.
"Sometimes your talent ... your tiny, weird skill, or even your power ... just has to get out."

Drilling Falls, PA: There's something special about Duncan Dorfman. That special skill could just get him in with the popular crowd, but his mother warns him not to let anyone know about it. It could lead to serious consequences. And she's right. When the secret gets out, it draws the attention of Carl Slater, part time scrabble player and full time bully.

Portland, OR: April Blunt has a mysterious boy
Dedi Setiadi
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-in-english
This book deserves more than 3,6 ratings on goodreads! It's a fun and heartfelt middle grade. Full of lovable characters with different motives to participate in a scrabble competition. The ending is a bit over the top and over-dramatic, but this book, once again, deserves more love!! :"
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This novel is about scrabble. It includes all of the two letter words that are legal, and how to make a bingo and what a bingo bango bongo is. So if you are interested in scrabble, and word games, this book is for you. Not that you have to love scrabble. I don't love it, and am easily intimidated by other players who are. But I enjoyed this book because the three teams who face off at the Youth Scrabble Tournament are all from different parts of the country, with different family problems, and q ...more
Rhiannon Ryder
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
One of the highlights of the BEA this past year, for me anyhow, has been how many books I walked away with which turned out to be pretty damn fun. Books I hadn't heard of before the expo, but sounded like they had enough potential to merit being packed and flown home, and which rocked my socks off once I got around to picking them off the bookshelf.

One of these was the Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman, Meg Wolitzer's first children's book. Meg pitched FDD at the speed dating for YA and children's au
Eva Mitnick
Oct 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: children
Three pairs of kids are competing in the Youth Scrabble Tournament:

April, paired with her best friend Lucy, is the lone Scrabble fanatic in a big family of jocks. She wants to win the tournament, but she is also hoping against hope to see a boy she taught to play scrabble while staying at a motel three years ago.

Nate, paired with his friend Maxie, is a NYC skateboarder who would like to attend school but must stay home and study Scrabble all day thanks to his crazed dad, who lost the YST as a ki
**Note: review of ARC. Duncan Dorfman, April Blunt, and Nate Saviano live faraway from one another and have one thing in common: they are all bright children who will compete in the national Scrabble competition held in Florida and each has a special reason for being in the competition.

Duncan Dorfman is drafted to go when major competitor Carl Slater realizes that Duncan has a gift which will give him an edge in the competition: Duncan can read with his fingertips--and we're not talking about B
Shonna Froebel
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Duncan and his mom have been on their own together forever. When she loses her job in Michigan, the two head home to Drilling Falls, Pennsylvania and move in with his great aunt, Aunt Djuna, and his mom gets a job at Thriftee Mike's Warehouse. Duncan's mom has told him that his father, Joe Wright, died of a rare disease called panosis before he was born, but she doesn't like to talk about him.
Duncan is lonely, having lunch with the other new kid at school, Andrew Tanizaki, a loneliness only enha
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I LOVE Scrabble, but even if the sight of little wooden letter tiles doesn't bring a grin to your face as it does to mine I think there's more oh so much more to love about this book anyway. Duncan Dorfman is the new kid in school and isn't well liked, but he has a gift. The fingertips of his left hand can "read" text. With his eyes closed and never having read the text before, Duncan can read an entire book using only the fingertips of his left hand! This special talent catches the attention of ...more
Chris Holliman
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
You may not think that a book about Scrabble would keep you turning the pages, but Meg Wolitzer’s The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman kept me engaged.

Duncan and his mother have just moved across the country to Drilling Falls, Pennsylvania to live with Aunt Djuna. Just as he is settling into his new school, Duncan discovers that he has a secret power: his left hand is able to read the words and pictures on a page just by moving his fingers across them. When school bully and hardcore Scrabble player
Naomi Schmidt
Apr 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I must have liked this book, since I stayed up late to finish it (although I told myself that it was just because there was so little left, it would be silly to leave it until morning), but there were a lot of things about it that bothered me. First off, a quote on the back of the book (from an author who I greatly respect, nonetheless), refers to Meg Wolitzer's "polished prose," and yet I found the prose far from polished. The text often seemed clunky and awkward; the story did not flow smoothl ...more
Danielle Ryan
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
At first glance, I am certain that I would have never picked up this book. However, my yearning to read more young adult literature and my most recent word obsession with scrabble, made me glad that I did. In a sense, this book served as a scrabble "user friendly" guide for me. I learned about several mnemonic devices to remember "point worthy" words, anagrams, strategies to navigate vowel dumps, an exhausting list of two lettered words to memorize, and a plethora of ways to make any arrangement ...more
Stacy Ford
May 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ncbla, bullies
Lovers of Scrabble, collectors of odd words and anagrams, and fans of the underdog will love this book. Duncan Dorfman, April Blunt, and Nate Saviano, three smart kids from different backgrounds and different parts of the country, have at least one thing in common: They all play Scrabble, and head to a national Scrabble team tournament in Florida. Duncan moves to a new town after his mother loses her job, and ends up being labeled "Lunch Meat" when someone in the cafeteria throws a slice of bolo ...more
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Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.
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