Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids in the Pacific Northwest. 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.
(Summary from GoodReads)
It’s a travesty that I am just now reviewing Andrew Smith’s Winger, because this was one of my favorite books of 2013. Sometimes a book is just well written and doesn’t make me feel a strong emotional attachment to it, other times a book makes me feel a lot, but may not have great writing. Winger has it all. This was my first Smith book, and it was filled with well-written characters, humor, a great story, and themes that are relevant to teens and need to be in YA literature.
Ryan Dean West is one of the most endearing characters ever, but he’s also really well written. In a lot of ways, this book is about what Ryan Dean wants: he wants to be a good rugby player, he wants to fit in with the guys, he wants to date Annie. Ryan Dean West is so realistic because he wants all of these things that are like what a lot of other teenage guys want, but he never does so selfishly. He always cares about his friends and the other people in his life. I have to add that because some of my friends in college played rugby, pretty much all of the rugby things in this book only made me love it and Ryan Dean more. I laughed out loud many, many times--especially at the comics, which were extremely well illustrated and gave us a ton of insight into Ryan Dean's personality.
If any of you have read an Andrew Smith book, you know that he isn’t one to shy away from tough subjects and he definitely doesn’t do so here. Smith covers some heavy subjects, and not in a way that feels tacked on or didactic. I loved the fact that what we see in this book is extremely relevant to teens today.
Winger is a stand out of 2013 and in young adult literature. It immediately made its way to my favorites list and I was so, so excited that I got to meet Andrew Smith recently and get my copy signed. If you have not read this book already and basked in Smith’s talent, you really need to do that.
Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.