Saturday, June 6, 2015

Winger by Andrew Smith (Review)

Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication.Date  May 14th 2013
Published By:  Simon & Schuster
AuthorAndrew Smith

Winger on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher  in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:,%201

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.


“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.”
“He was a little guy, a former winger too, and he was a transplant from England who could talk the most civilized-sounding shit you would ever hear, and he could cuss you out with the most vicious obscenities and”

     Andrew Smith gets it. What it feels like to be a teenager buzzing with hormones, conflicting feelings, untamable emotions, hopes, dreams and fears. He just gets it. That's one of the reasons why I love his books so much and always make time for his latest when it comes out. He's on my automatic to-read and to-buy list, and has a very special place on my shelf. When you read his books, you feel like you're reading about actual people, not characters. His stories feel authentic and honest, and completely free of bullshit. He doesn't beat around the bushes. He doesn't hold back. He makes you feel real emotions, takes you out of your YA fairytale comfort zone and makes you face the reality of teenagedom in its freakishly awkward and goosebumpy glory. Man, if that isn't a true talent then I don't know what is.

     Winger is one incredibly tricky book to review, though. I loved it so so SOOOOOO much, but I can't tell you why, because that would spoil everything. I can't tell you what to expect from this book either, because you really need to go into it blindsided and just enjoy the journey (and skip the Goodreads reviews, too, they reveal way too much!). If you'll stick with it till the end, you'll be rewarded with a jaw-dropping, cathartic ending. I know I was completely mind blown and reeling from it for a very long time.

     Ryan Dean is a truly remarkable character. He's intelligent and witty, but also pretty socially awkward, especially around girls. It doesn't help that he's in love with his best friend, Annie, who also happens to be 2 years older than he is and not very interested in dating a little kid. But worry not, Ryan Dean is very determined and not easily deterred!

     The character development is exceptional. What we have here is a very eclectic bunch of unique, realistically drawn characters that really grow on you and become people you care about. And not just care about briefly for the duration of the book, but care about enough to sometimes think about even long after you put the book down. Like I said, Andrew Smith gets it. These are not some molded to perfection, embellished characters, these are real teenage kids - hormonal, sex-obsessed, awkward and rebellious. And they're freaking awesome.

     Winger is a book that touches on many sensitive issues, such as bullying, tolerance, homosexuality and first love. Through anecdotes, jokes, hilarious situations and choke-on-your-drink, eye-popping punch lines and observations, it teaches you about life, death, love, friendship and surviving high school (and a boarding school at that!). While its overall tone is rather light, the story is a multi-layered one; and the ending is bitter-sweet. This is a book full of meaning and important lessons. One of the few books that even the most reluctant readers will love, breeze-through, and then keep coming back to. 

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