Series: Winger #1
Published by Simon & Schuster
Published on May 14th 2013
Genres: Comedy, Coming of Age, Fiction, Young Adult
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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.
After spending nearly a year on my TBR, I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of Winger. As soon as I picked it up, I had intended on waiting a few weeks before starting it. But, after skimming through the first few chapters, I discovered the following:
1.) This story was told in Male POV (MY FAVE!)
2.) Vulgarity. I loves me some vulgarity in my YA. The way to my heart is through F-Bombs and crude jokes. This book had that in spades! YAY!
“I also never cuss, except in writing, and occasionally during silent prayer, so excuse me up front, because I can already tell I’m going to use the entire dictionary of cusswords when I tell the story of what happened to me and my friends during my eleventh-grade year at Pine Mountain.”
3.) Illustrations/VISUAL AIDES!! I. Love. Visual. Aides! (I’m including a few in this review for your viewing pleasure.)
Cue Happy Dance!
Needless to say, I immediately cracked this baby open, and proceeded to finish it in its entirety in ONE SITTING.
This story is divided up into 4 parts. Even though it is comprised of 439 pages, it all flows beautifully. (Which made it easier to finish in one sitting.)
From the moment I started this book, I knew that I was going to be engrossed. The prologue, which is short and sweet, immediately grabbed me:
We go from profound and thought-provoking in the prologue, to snarky and self-deprecating at the start of Chapter one:
“Nothing could possibly suck worse than being a junior in high school, alone at the top of your class, and fourteen years old all at the same time.”
Ladies and Gents, meet Ryan Dean West:
I LOVED reading this book from Ryan Dean’s POV. He’s smart, he’s witty, he’s outright hilarious. There were even times where I’d forget that he was 14, as all of his friends/peers are older. (AND he’s a junior in high school.)
Age aside, Ryan Dean is your average high school junior. He’s also a player on the rugby team. To be more specific, he plays the “Winger” position on his school’s rugby team.
As we follow along with RDW during his school year, we are introduced to some of his closest friends (and rugby teammates): Joey, JP, and Seanie. We also get to meet one of Ryan Dean’s best friends, Annie. She’s a fellow junior (2 years his senior, as is everyone else in his grade), and in RDW’s eyes, is one of the most gorgeous girls at school. (I smell a recipe for disaster!) I loved the interactions between RDW and Annie. It was hilarious watching Ryan Dean work through the awkwardness of flirtation, while trying to get past the “friend zone” with Annie. The odds were stacked against him the whole time, but seeing him try to overcome the obstacles made for some entertaining dialogue, and illustrations!
BTW, I couldn’t get enough of the balls-y humor.
Balls jokes aside, this was also a story about Ryan Dean’s self-discovery. He has to try to get his peers to respect him, despite the fact that when they look at him, all they see is how young he is. It was exciting to see RDW come into his own as the story progressed.
“And then it’s always that one word that makes you so different and puts you outside the overlap of everyone else; and that word is so fucking big and loud, it’s the only thing anyone ever hears when your name is spoken.
And whenever that happens to us, all the other words that make us the same disappear in its shadow.“
Ryan Dean began this book as the underdog, scratching and clawing along the way to level the playing field with those around him. I was his biggest fan from the start, and I spent the entirety of this story hoping he’d come out on top by the end.
With each turn of the page, I fell more and more in love with the writing of this book. There were several points in which I’d pause while reading, and say in awe:
(Yeah, I realize that this meant I was just talking to myself at that point– as I was in my room…alone…reading….haha)
So there I was, enjoying Ryan Dean’s humor, trials, and triumphs, when all of a sudden, I hit part 3 of the book…
I started to get a little anxious…
Speechless. I was struck dumb. I had no words.
Have you ever felt like you had your heart ripped from just reading words on a page? If I hadn’t before, I definitely know the feeling now.
At this point, I had to take a 20 minute “weepy time” break. #FEELS
After I pulled myself together, I made it through the 4th and final part of the book. After I finished reading, I felt inclined to go back and reread the final 40 pages. (Guess I’m a glutton for punishment…) When it was all over, I came to the realization that this book had utterly ruined me in the best possible way. (It hurt so good.)
Because I was so engrossed in the book, I didn’t go online to do status updates on social media. However, this was the first thing I wrote on our blog’s Instagram once I finished:
Winger is one of my all-time favorite YA reads, and most definitely my favorite book I’ve read this year. If I could describe this book in one word, it would be: BRILLIANT. This book grabs you by the balls, and makes you pay attention. Andrew Smith created such an amazingly breathtaking story with this book. His characters were realistic, relatable, and beautifully flawed. This story was honest, this story was powerful, and it’s message was profound. This is the kind of book that stays with you, and continues to haunt you well after you’ve finished the last page. #bookHangover
Now, I wait for book Two. Until then…
I can’t wait to dive into Andrew’s latest book: Grasshopper Jungle. I will read anything he writes!