Review: Winger by Andrew Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 boxes of tissues on the scale of Best Books Ever That Made Me Sob Inconsolably
Pub Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: young adult, contemporary, humor, guy fic
Format/Source: ARC obtained at TLA
Status: Standalone

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.

Disclaimer: This arc was obtained at TLA. I was given a copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wow. While I was visiting the Simon & Schuster booth during TLA in April, I was talking to one of the guys and he shoved a copy of Winger at me and told me that I simply had to read it because it was so wonderful. I am SO glad he did. 1. This gave me a book to take with me to Andrew Smith's signing, where I met him and the lovely A.S. King, and 2. This book is freaking brilliant. I mean it. I think this is top 5 for this year, if not all time, and is most definitely the most heartbreaking this year if not all time.

So one of the best things Winger has got going for it is it's male pov written by a male. This ship is real, y'all (unlike Ryan Dean, I try not to swear, even in my writing)! I mean, Ryan Dean is just such a....boy. A teenage boy at that. I had no trouble believing all the ridiculous things he thinks, says, and does throughout the novel. Peeing in a gatorade bottle rather than going to the bathroom? Check. Being pervy with every single female character (by "every single" I mean all of them, not single as in relationship status because...well, RDW has some homewrecker moments) in the book, particularly in his thoughts? Check. Ryan Dean is really astute and a remarkably good narrator, but he's also straight-up dumb sometimes, but that's okay because it fits so well with reality as well as the world of the book.

See, when Ryan Dean is acting like a hormonal idiot, Andrew used his other characters to take up the slack. There's Joey Cosentino: the Voice of Reason. I don't care that Joey is gay, I am totally in love with him. Joey's job is to point out every time Ryan Dean is being stupid, but he always has RD's back, on the rugby field and off, and I have nothing but respect for him. He's a Nice Guy, but he's not above getting dirty to defend himself or calling someone out when they need to be put in place.

There's Annie: the Best Friend and Love Interest. It's way cool seeing Annie face reality when it comes to her relationship with Ryan Dean. I, being a girl who at one time was sixteen, innately know what's going on in Annie's head so it's way cool understanding her thoughts while actually reading from Ryan Dean's mind. Love it.

There's Chas: the Hostile Roommate & Teammate/Romantic Competition. Chas's purpose really confused me during much of the novel, but his presence actually puts Ryan Dean into the role of bad guy at one point, which forces the reader and Ryan Dean to actively acknowledge his fault. Also, Chas is instrumental to the resolution of Ryan Dean's story.

There's Seanie (the Comic Relief, insofar as sometimes Ryan Dean has to be serious for a second and not be funny himself) and JP (the Other Romanic Competition). These guys...well, I didn't care a whole whole lot for them because Seanie is just an oddball and JP is a douche, but again, we see Ryan Dean in a different light because of them. Ryan Dean makes a lot of mistakes, and Seanie and JP are kind of the collateral damage.

There's Megan: Love Interest/Temptation. While Annie is the attainable-but-unattainable best friend/crush, Megan is the unattainable-but-attainable (yes, there's a difference) hot girl that Ryan Dean wants because she's hot, but shouldn't want because she's otherwise taken. Yet, while Annie is spending her time wrestling with her feelings for Ryan Dean, Megan decisively chooses to spend some quality time with Ryan Dean pressed up against the water fountain, if you know what I mean. Megan helps Ryan Dean transform into the Wild Boy of Bainbridge Island.

There's Casey: the Bully. Grade A douchenozzle. Spends all his time picking on everybody else. His presence gives Ryan Dean the opportunity to be both the victim and the hero.

There's the staff: Mr. Farrow (Perpetually Absent Authority Figure), Ms. Singer (Perpetually Present Stick-Up-Her-Butt [possibly a broomstick] Female Authority Figure Who Might Be a Witch Constantly Cursing Ryan Dean), Mr. Wellins (Pervy Teacher Who Reads Sex Into Everything), Coach M (Authority Figure Who Actually Means Something to the Students), and Nurse Hickey (Hot Nurse With Suggestive Name). These characters aren't hugely present, but each one has a unique relationship with Ryan Dean so I figured I'd include them. There are others as well, like guys on the rugby and football teams, Isabel, Annie's parents, etc, but not too intricately included in the story. I did just kind of reduced all these characters to a small label-able characteristic or two, but trust me when I say they're important.

So the characters are all great. The story, at least at first, was a bit slow for me, but it picks up. I thought Winger was supposed to be just a funny novel. And it really is a hilarious look at Ryan Dean trying to fit in at his school, trying to navigate the waters of romance, trying to not die either on the rugby field (by an opponent OR teammate because it was touch-and-go sometimes), trying not to be cursed by Ms. Singer. Winger reads like a journal with Ryan Dean frequently breaking the fourth wall to talk to the reader, rating things on his ridiculous scales like my rating above, and drawing awesome cartoons. Seriously, the drawings add an awesome artistic element. I really hope this trend gets a kickstart because I love it. So I'm reading Winger, expecting it to continue the funny when WHAM! Out of absolutely nowhere, Andrew Smith decided to punch a hole through my heart. It took me a couple of weeks to read Winger, but one night I decided to just finish it in one sitting. It was about 1 AM so when this crazy unimaginable, unexpected, heart-wrenching event occurred, I couldn't take it anymore. Oh, sure, I finished Winger at about 1:30, and then for at least an additional 20 minutes I sobbed like my 3-year old niece when someone tells her no. So...thanks for that, Andrew Smith, you cruel genius you! At least I got a reply/RT/favorite/follow out of it:
Anyway, Winger, while it did break my heart, opened my mind so much more. It was a funny novel to be sure, but more than that, I truly had things to think about after. And isn't that all we really ask out of a novel? Not make us think and feel? I don't know about you, but I couldn't ask for any more from Andrew, Ryan Dean, and Winger. You guys, if it's not already, it MUST be put on your TBR asap. And from there, just keep right on clicking to currently reading. Yeah. It's that good.

Recommended for: EVERYBODY EVAR
Not recommended for: Honestly, this book is from the pov of a fourteen-year old boy. Yeah, he talks about his junk. Also, although Ryan Dean maintains that he doesn't personally swear much verbally, he has a particularly foul-mouthed mind. I didn't count, but the f-bomb meter might rival that of The Boondock Saints. Also, there's a lot of discussion of homosexuality and homophobia. If any of those things are going to bother you, I advise you to walk away. This book is too awesome for you to complain about language and a gay character.
Book Links:
About the Author:
 Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger (Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness—an Amazon “Best of the Year”) and The Marbury Lens (A YALSA BFYA, and Starred reviews and Best of the Year in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist). He is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Grasshopper Jungle, coming February 11, 2014, is his seventh novel. He lives in Southern California.
Author Links:

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely LOVE the male POV, especially in YA. This has been on my TBR list for a while ...but I don't think I'm up for a good cry just yet. ;) Thanks for this great review!