by Andrew Smith
Reviewed by THE BOOK DEALER
“I know it is kind of ridiculous, but I realize now how wrong that old pervert [English teacher] Mr. Welkins is. Almost nothing at all is ever about sex, unless you never grow up, that is.
It’s about love, and maybe, not having it.
What an old, delusioned idiot he is.
But what do I know?
I’m just fourteen.”
p. 438 (Smith)
My one piece of advice to readers is to have tissues handy when reading Winger. Smith has brilliantly mastered evoking emotions and creating a story that allows for the reader to feel as if the characters are people living in his or her own neighborhood. You will cry so hard from laughing at this first person narrative just as much as you will cry while reading about the lessons the main character, Ryan Dean, learns throughout the story.
Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in O-Hall (Opportunity Hall), the dorm for the miscreants of the school and is rooming with the school’s bully, who just so happens to also be a player on Ryan Dean’s rugby team.
Because of the amazing character development, I found myself doodling a stick figure character of Ryan Dean, as I thought about his words, actions, thoughts, strengths, and weaknesses. Immediately the reader finds that with the help of his sense of humor (including hysterical doodlings of comics that reveal his inner thoughts) and his friends (and enemies) on the rugby team, Ryan Dean manages to survive some of life’s complications (like being in love with his best friend and becoming close friends with a player who leads an alternative lifestyle). With a shocking ending that leaves both Ryan Dean and the reader speechless and deeply hurt, this book is one of a few that not only truly entertains but leaves the reader with great revelations about life.
One of many reasons I appreciated this book is its realistic depiction of the hardships of being a teen and how Smith amazingly finds a balance between a story that is both hilarious and heart wrenching. After finishing, I immediately had to email the author to share my sentiments, as this young adult book touched me in a way that I will long remember. Smith has quickly become one of my absolute favorite authors.