Book Review: Winger by Andrew Smith

Posted February 26, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 22 Comments

Winger

 by Andrew Smith

Winger

 Original publication date: May 14, 2013
Length: 439 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Obtained Via: Borrowed from the library
Format Read In: Library book
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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.howwasit

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.

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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.

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5 Stars

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22 responses to “Book Review: Winger by Andrew Smith

  1. *skips to the end where I can comment* AHHHH another book I need to read, like, yesterday. I’ve heard SO many good things about it. Sometime soon. Sometime soon. (But isn’t that what I always say? RATS)

  2. I read this one bc my blog partner loved it so much and in the beginning I was like… okay, where is the story here? But I got so swept up in Ryan Dean’s voice (I swear he acted just like my high school boyfriend… EVERYTHING WAS SO SIMILAR) and I loved the relationships and the growth. I was on a plane when I finished it… with no way to communicate with anyone so you can just imagine how I dealt with that. (Not good.) Def. a solid fan of Andrew Smith now.

    • Stormy

      I don’t know what I would have done if I had read this one on a plane. IMMEDIATELY when I finished I took to twitter and begged someone to suffer with me! I loved Ryan Dean’s voice by the middle. It took me by surprise how much I liked it–for the first fifty pages I was sort of “Okay, not sure if I can handle this. . . but I want to keep reading”. I wasn’t even sure I was enjoying it until about thirty percent in, but then I just got really into the story and had the feeling it was headed somewhere. . . and then the ending killed me. Gah.

  3. I am convinced. I must read this book. I love books that make you laugh, but also hit a few emotional buttons. I can’t wait to see what happens at the end. And I like how this will be about a young boy. I’ve read too many female leads. 😛

    • Stormy

      For laugh + cry, I DEFINITELY recommend this one. And the male POV was really well done–it was refreshing, since most of the books I tend to pick up have female MCs(which I love!), but variety makes reading more interesting.

    • Stormy

      RIGHT? Like, it kind of builds up the entire time so later on after things happen you could see where they had been coming, but OH want a punch in the gut it was.

  4. I loved that you loved this book! I feel like the pressure for me to read it gets greater each review I see because literally everyone has read it (but me) and everyone has loved it! I’ve started it multiple times but I just can’t bring myself to read more than five pages and I don’t know why. I’m going to push on because obviously if so many people love this book, it has to be good! I’ve seen the illustrations though, they’re so good and hilarious! Great review, Stormy! 🙂

    • Stormy

      I definitely read this one because of the pressure–but it was good pressure in this case! I wasn’t even sure I liked it for the first fifty pages, but I had to keep reading. and reading. And then eventually I realized that I REALLY liked it. The illustrations are such a great touch–I ESPECIALLY loved the chart/graph ones.

  5. I’ve been meaning to read Winger for awhile now. I borrowed it from the library, but I just keep renewing it because I haven’t read it yet. I’m actually thinking that the audiobook might be better for me.

    Anyway, I read very few male narrated books, and I do want to make a conscious decision to read more. I think Winger is perfect for this.

    • Stormy

      Oh, I hope you enjoy it! I’ve heard pretty good things about the audiobook too, though you’d probably miss out on the illustrations? Not that they really are plot-necessary, but I thought Ryan Dean West’s charts and graphs were completely fun. But yes, great male POV!

    • Stormy

      I LOVED it. And it’s such a well-done male POV. Lots of dirty jokes and gross pranks(which is ick), so not something I would normally enjoy, but the VOICE was just so well done and the plot and it just all felt so well.

    • Stormy

      I LOVED it. And it’s such a well-done male POV. Lots of dirty jokes and gross pranks(which is ick), so not something I would normally enjoy, but the VOICE was just so well done and the plot and it just all felt so well.

  6. I’m so glad you enjoyed it Stormy! Gah the last 10% of the book were just heart-breaking and such a tone-changer. I do agree with you that Winger feels very fresh, I haven’t read a book like that either.

    • Stormy

      Yup, that last 10% did me in.
      I think on paper, the basic plot is sort of Looking For Alaska-ish(boarding school, something happens, etc.), but it reads totally different and unique.

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