By Andrew Smith
Series: Winger #1
Published by Simon and Schuster
on May 14, 2013
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.
Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.
I bought this book last year after hearing people rave about how awesome it was. And the cover was definitely intriguing! Then, for some reason, I just put it on the shelf and left it there. Every time I finished a book and was trying to decide what to pick up next, I would look at this and want to read it, but didn’t. I don’t know if it was the size of the book or if I was more focused on reading ARCs ahead of release dates or what, but I kept finding myself drawn to this book and yet not reading it.
I knew that this had to be one of the first books I read for 2014, and now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read it!
Winger broke my heart, and I didn’t see it coming. For the most part, this was a heartwarming, funny story about Ryan Dean’s life at school, playing on the rugby team, falling in love with his best friend Annie, and adjusting to life in Opportunity Hall. I loved the cartoons that were mixed in with the book! I’d love to see something like that incorporated into more stories.
Ryan Dean was so likeable and sympathetic, even when he was being ridiculous and a bit dumb, but come on, the guy’s 14 years old! There were moments in this book that had me shaking my head and then laughing out loud all at the same time. His voice came through loud and clear. This was a character I could connect with. I empathized with Ryan Dean and felt sympathy for him, and rolled my eyes when he was doing things I knew he’d regret later. But I was one hundred percent pulled into his world and loved every minute I got to spend there.
The other characters – his friends JP, Seanie, and Joey; his best friend who he’s in love with, Annie; and his roommate and rugby teammate Chas, who frightens Ryan Dean (but not enough to prevent Ryan Dean from making out a bit with Chas’s hot girlfriend) – felt well-developed and real, and their interactions with Ryan Dean were funny, sad, frustrating, and more. Everyone felt authentic, and the way Ryan Dean thought they all saw him reminded me of how worried I was about what other people thought of me when I was a teenager.
This was a pretty perfect book. It was funny, touching, I loved the characters, and then that ending. THAT ENDING. It ruined me. I was in tears, sitting there with the book closed on my lap, and had to explain to my husband that the book gave me the sads. What a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, jaw-dropping way to finish the novel.
This is my first five star read of 2014 but I but it will end up on my top reads at the end of the year. This book is amazing, and why oh why didn’t I read it sooner? Now I’m dealing with a bad book hangover. This is definitely a recommended read.