Author: Andrew Smith
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary
Synopsis: Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old boy 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 humour, 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.
Would I recommend? Perfect for fans of ‘Me, Earl and the Dying Girl.’
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This was one of my most-anticipated summer reads for this year. I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about this book. I’ve heard that it’s funny, it’s unique but it’s also heartbreaking. I’m not a huge fan of contemporaries, but I’m also drawn to some contemporaries more than I’ve ever been drawn other genres. This was one of those books.
I really enjoyed this one. As is common with overhyped books, I was cautious going into this, to try and enjoy this book for what it is rather than what it is made out to be by so many people. I didn’t need to do that because even if there hadn’t been hype surrounding it, it would have been a great book. The story was unlike anything I’ve ever read before; I don’t usually read contemporaries from male point of views, so this was a refreshing change. The characters were all lovable, but they all had serious flaws which made them realistic. The voice was phenomenally consistent throughout. The doodles were laugh-out-loud hilarious, and the writing was the perfect balance of casual and meaningful.
Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year old junior in high school. Not only does his age make him a misfit, due to circumstances, Ryan Dean finds himself in O-Hall, the dorm for the troublemaker boys at his school. On top of that, he’s rooming with Chas Becker, the jerk/bully on Ryan Dean’s rugby team who thinks he’s entitled to everything. Ryan Dean needs to get through this year with the help of his friends, especially his best friend Annie, who Ryan Dean is hopelessly in love with.
Even though I really enjoyed the story, and I was invested from start to finish, there isn’t too much going on in the book. Essentially, it’s a coming-of-age story about a young(er) boy trying to get through school. We see his interactions with his friends, with his teachers, with his team-mates. We see him during rugby practice, doing stupid dares, in classes, in painfully awkward interactions with girls. This book is more about character development than story, but I didn’t mind this.
Even then, when I picked up this book, I was completely absorbed into Ryan Dean’s world. I would pick it up and read over a hundred pages at a time, no problem. The doodles scattered throughout the pages were hilarious. Some of the themes explored were very meaningful, but they were done in a humorous light which made them more effective while not being heavy-handed.
And this book is funny. By that, I don’t mean a little smile here and there, I mean laugh-out-loud hilarious. There were some scenes in this that when paired with Ryan Dean’s matter-of-fact voice had me cracking up, trying to stifle my laughter at 3 in the morning. But don’t be fooled. The book is much more than just humor. It packs a ferocious punch. You don’t expect it at all.
Like I said before, this book focuses more on coming-of-age and character development. The characters in this book were done very well.
I saw a couple of reviews prior to reading this book that said Ryan Dean was a horrible person, a loser and a pervert. And while the ‘loser’ and ‘pervert’ part might be true, I think that’s what made Ryan Dean’s character so realistic. In his defense, he’s fourteen years old- that’s always an awkward age for boys as they find themselves thinking about sex 24/7. And even though Ryan Dean thought of sex all the time, he was clearly not a bad guy. Sometimes, he would objectify women, but as the story progressed, he realizes his mistakes and tries to correct them. The character development here was very subtle, but effective and realistic too. Putting that aside, Ryan Dean was absolutely adorable. He genuinely cared for all of his friends and his team-mates. Even though he was a misfit, he tried to push past that, and he stood up for himself always, which is something we don’t often see in YA novels. He was funny and kind, but very flawed at the same time.
The secondary characters were good. I really liked Ryan Dean’s relationship with Annie, but I didn’t think Annie, at her own, was a well-developed character. Chas Becker was interesting, but I would have liked to see more of him. Joey was, by far, my favorite character in this book. His relationship with Ryan Dean was so cute. I’m a sucker for bromances, so I hit the jackpot here.
Andrew Smith is a talented writer. There’s a certain kind of raw simplicity to his writing. He writes some very meaningful things, but he doesn’t try to push his point at you; it’s just there, and if you appreciate it, that’s good enough, but if you don’t- whatever. His writing is very matter-of-fact. He doesn’t beat about the bush. He knows exactly when to vary his sentences, when to insert the doodles this book is famous for, when to introduce a lull to the story. The voice he sets up is fabulous, and I’ll definitely be reading more of his work.
I’m a little concerned about the sequel. Even though I will definitely be reading it, I think it’s unnecessary because Winger was a great stand-alone, and I’m concerned that the sequel might take away the brevity and shock of the first one.