by Andrew Smith
Original publication date: May 14, 2013
Length: 439 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Obtained Via: Borrowed from the library
Format Read In: Library book
View at the Traffic light:
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.
Oh, Winger. You are a strange book, aren’t you? Even after letting you rest to the side for a day, I still can’t think of quite how to put all my opinions and emotions into words. If you are a fan of the male POV in YA, let me tell you that this is one of the best. Ryan Dean does read like a 14-year-old boy: immature and juvenile at times, with hints of wisdom coming through. But most of all, Ryan Dean’s narrative voice is profoundly funny. I admit that some of it didn’t quite humor me, but there were times while reading Winger that I was absolutely laughing out loud–and not a small giggle, like I normally do at books, but a full-on laugh.
On the surface, I can’t say much about Winger because so much of this novel’s greatness comes towards the end(not that it wasn’t great before that), and it sounds too simplistic to simply say that Winger is the story of Ryan Dean’s first semester of junior year, but it is. For the most part, nothing seems out of the ordinary, though it’s all told excellently. Ryan Dean makes both bad and good decisions, has to deal with his first love, has a falling out with a friend, and makes a new friend. All pretty standard stuff, but the boarding school setting and well-done first-person point-of-view made Winger feel so fresh and like nothing I had ever read before.
There are so many fantastic things I can point out about Winger: the mood whiplash that occurs in the last 10% of the book, the tears I wanted to cry, the way I was actually intrigued by a sport in a book(that has never happened before), the way I shook my head at teenage boys and wondering if Winger would offer me some insights.
I am not going to talk much about the ending, because Winger is a book you want to go in to as blindly as possible. What I am going to talk about is how it invaded my thoughts and made me think. On one hand, I know what happened at the end of Winger. It happened, I can get my head around it. I think it made narrative sense too. But what Winger didn’t try to do is answer the question of Why this happened. And there really isn’t a why, which makes it all the more brilliant.
When I started Winger, I wasn’t sure if I was liking it or not. Some time later I looked down and realized I had read the entire half of the book and I didn’t want to stop. The answer to my question seemed to be YES. Winger is without a doubt one of the best YA’s I’ve read in recent memory. The narrative voice of Ryan Dean will not appeal to everyone, but if it does, you should absolutely try Winger. 5/5 cupcakes.