Author: Andrew Smith
Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 5-17-13
Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy. With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart. – Goodreads
This was my first Andrew Smith book and after reading it I finally realized why he has so many devoted fans. Winger was heartbreaking, honest, and hilarious. I don’t mean smile while you’re reading funny, I mean that I laughed so hard at parts of this book that I woke up my husband because my laughter was shaking the whole bed. (Any book that has a haiku about getting kicked in the balls will always be number one in my heart, ok?) The hilarity is artfully combined with moments of painful honesty that go perfectly with Ryan Dean’s raw and unapologetically hormonal narrative voice. The book is also filled with the cartoons and infographics that Ryan Dean creates, which adds to the humor and overall experience of reading this book. For me, it brought me even further into the story because I wasn’t just reading about the cartoons that Ryan Dean was drawing for his friends, I was getting to see them, as well. (I would like a graphic novel that tells Screaming Ned’s back story, please.)
The thing about Ryan Dean that I loved was that even though he is riddled with a lot of self-doubt, he really doesn’t let it hold him back. He’s younger and smaller than all of the guys, but he plays rugby with everything he’s got, anyway. He’s rooming with the biggest bully on the team, but that doesn’t stop him from crushing on said bully’s girlfriend. The girl he loves thinks of him as a “little boy” but he never gives up. Although some of his decisions made me cringe, I could not help but fall in love with the way he just decided to go big or go home. Although Ryan Dean alone was entertaining enough, the people he interacts with at school were a big part of the reason why I loved this book so much. Every relationship in this book was a treasure. Even the most unsympathetic residents of Opportunity Hall eventually found a place in my heart, which I think is a testament to Andrew Smith’s writing and his ability to flesh-out the characters. That ability to make you care about everyone is the reason why, more than halfway through the book, you will find yourself going from laughing to crying. I wasn’t prepared for that and it made the book a very intense read, but if anything, I think it made me love it even more. In my mind, Winger was ultimately a story about love and acceptance that was framed within the context of the complicated and confusing feelings of a hyper-intelligent teenage boy. There are very few books that get it right the way that Winger does. I am so glad that I read this story. Read this book and you won’t be sorry. Trust me on this one, folks.
I received this galley in exchange for my honest review.