Author: Andrew Smith
Published: May 14th 2013
Pages: 439 (Hardcover)
Series: Winger #1
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
Winger is a story about love, friendship, growing up, and of course, getting your shit together. It’s a story that’ll make you laugh your socks off, but also a story that’ll make you cry like there’s no tomorrow.
Before I started reading this book, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d seen raving reviews all over the internet (especially on booktube), and people were spitting out words like “amazing”, “hilarious”, and “this book ruined my life”. That last one concerned me a bit, but I thought that at least I was prepared, and that might help me to get over it (it didn’t). Anyway, other than the fact that people seemed to love it, and that it takes place on a boarding school, I didn’t really know much about it. I’m kind of thankful for that, though.
In this book, we get to follow the crazy adventures of Ryan Dean West, our main character, who, as you’ll see, has some difficulties fitting in at school, and knowing how he should behave among the other kids there. He is a 14-year-old in a world full of 16-year-olds after all, and sure, being in the same grade as people two years older has made him a bit more mature than others his age, but you can still feel the difference, and so can he. You can see it in some of his actions, how he handles certain situations, and his naivety, and all these things put him in a kind of weird, and often awkward, in-between place. Throughout the story you get to see how he deals with this, and how it affects his relationships with the people at school.
“Aww”, she said. “What a cute boy.” Okay, I’ll be honest. I think she actually said “little boy,” but it was so traumatizing to hear that I may have blocked it out.”
I found most of the characters in this novel absolutely stunning, and I loved reading about them and their interactions. It was pretty easy to notice smaller differences in Ryan Dean’s behaviour and way of talking depending on who was in his presence, and this, I feel, is exactly how it is in real life (I certainly do it all the time). I also found the dynamics between the guys on the team fascinating. I’ve never really been on a team myself, and it was so much fun reading about how, even though they were nothing alike and not really friends, they still had each others backs.
“The thing about rugby is this: You can hate a guy off the pitch who will save your fucking balls on the pitch when you play on the same side. There is nothing more glorious than that.”
Plus, character developement, man.
Another thing I really enjoyed (among countless others), was the atmosphere and the tone of the book. I love boarding school stories (who doesn’t?), and I really think Andrew Smith managed to capture the right feeling of it all.
As I kind of mentioned earlier, I think it’s best not knowing too much before picking up this book, but here’s a couple of other things I loved that deserve to be mentioned before I wrap this up:
- Great inner monologue
- Fantastic cover
- The Wild Boy of Bainbridge Island
I rest my case.
But to put this whole thing all nice and simple: Winger is a fantastic story with a legendary main character, crazy and hilarious situations, and heartbreak. It’s a book that doesn’t hold back, and that feels real and raw. This damned thing managed to trick me into thinking it was a happy book, and then ripped my heart out in both the best and worst kind of ways. It wasn’t perfect and I did have a few problems with it (like the female characters), but Winger is definitely not a novel I will forget anytime soon.
If you’re one of those people who loved Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, chances are that you’ll love this one as well. Though they are very different in plot and setting, they do have some things in common, for example the swearing (so if you can’t handle swear words, skip this one), the tone (mix of funny and sad), and some themes (boy growing up, finding your place etc.). So yeah, if that’s your thing, do not hesitate to go out and find this book.
God, I’m so scared of what the sequel will do to me.
“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.”
“Joey told me nothing ever goes back exactly the way it was, that things expand and contract- like breathing, but you could never fill your lungs up with the same air twice.”