Meet Ryan Dean West, Ryan Dean is his first name. This is the least of his worries You can just call him Winger like everyone else that doesn't care what his name is and just knows he's a winger on the rugby team. not the least of his worries? Being in O-Hall the wing for miscreants and screw ups at prestigious Pin Mountain Boarding School. Worse, yet? He's only 14 and a Junior. He reasons it could be worse he could be 15 and a Senior. Either way every single person he knows is a minimum of two years older than him and considers him "a kid." Especially, and heartbreakingly Annie, the girl of Ryan Dean's heart (and other body parts we won't mention). Though the scrums, the blood, the puke, and the other body fluids of the year he'll learn more about life than he ever wanted to know and that there way more than one way to break your heart.
Winger is So! Darn! Great! Stop what you are doing RIGHT NOW and read Winger. Don't even finish this review. It's a waste of Winger reading time. For those of you doubters out there that are still reading this and not Winger, a) ouch, where's the trust and b) I guess I'll have to convince you. For starters, this book is utterly hilarious. Like busting guts and snorting milk funny. It will speak to the 14 year old boy inside of everyone! Even if laughing uproariously at brilliantly stupid humor isn't your thing, it has genuine human emotion to spare! The book is bursting with great supporting characters that are awesome enough to be the protagonists of their own book. even the total jerks are really well written total jerks and some (SPOILER ALERT) turn out not to be jerks at all! It has a great central love story! Heck it has two! Ryan Dean and Annie and Ryan Dean and his best friend Joey. it is able to look at first friendship and first love in a way that is bracingly unsentimental. You'll find yourself rooting for and against Ryan Dean throughout the book as he goes big and goes stupid in equal measure (again he's 14), but in a way that feels human and all too familiar for anyone that ever felt 'small' and hated it. The book also has a wonderful flow. It's got Ryan Dean's cartoons, loads of weird asides from our narrator, and loads of seemingly inconsequential but clearly monumental important (when you're a teen) stuff actually happens. It feels like Smith had such great material, dialogue, characters, and jokes that he could have easily doubled the book, but cut down to keep only the best of the best. The book feels really tight, like every scene serves a real purpose to further show character or move the story forward. It makes for a really hard to put down book. So for all of you out there that still aren't reading Winger and are actually reading this review, I apologize. Clearly I am not a good enough persuasive writer to get you to read what might the best YA book of the year yet. For everyone else enjoy reading what is DEFINITELY my favorite YA book of this year*.
You can find Winger in our catalog here.
*Even if the ending was a total gut-punch/face-punch/kick-in-the-ribs of sadness!