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. Read more...
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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 infographics 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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-03-04
- Reviewer: Staff
This brutally honest coming-of-age novel from Smith (Passenger) unfolds through the eyes of Ryan Dean West, a 14-year-old, rugby-playing junior at the exclusive Pine Mountain school. He’s two years younger than his classmates, hopelessly in love with his best friend Annie, and stuck in Opportunity Hall, the residence reserved for the worst rule-breakers. As Ryan Dean struggles with football-team bullies, late-night escapades, academic pressures, and girl troubles, he also discovers his own strengths. Like puberty itself, this tale is alternately hilarious and painful, awkward and enlightening; Bosma’s occasional comics add another layer of whimsy and emotion, representing Ryan Dean’s own artistic bent. The characters and situations are profane and crass, reveling in talk of bodily functions and sexual innuendo, and the story is a cross between the films Lucas and Porky’s, with all the charm and gross-out moments that dichotomy suggests. That’s what makes the tragedy near the very end all the more shocking and sudden, changing the entire mood and impact of Ryan Dean’s journey. The last-minute twist may leave readers confused, angry, and heartbroken, but this remains an excellent, challenging read. Ages 12–up. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrew Brown Literary Agency. (May)
Blasting the boarding school blues
A reader looking to pigeonhole Winger into a traditional genre category may be in for a surprise. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny sports story set at a boarding school, but it’s also a serious look at the many different forms of love—and a subtle meta-narrative about the process of telling a story.
Ryan Dean West is an anomaly at his preppy boarding school—he’s 14 and already a junior—when his involvement in a petty crime forces his transfer from the boys’ dorm to Opportunity Hall, a bare-bones, prison-like residence for troublesome students. Despite this inauspicious start, Ryan Dean is determined that this will be the year he reinvents himself. As he gears up for rugby season, dodges an intimidating new roommate, navigates girl trouble and develops a growing friendship with a gay teammate, Ryan Dean relates his story in a combination of bar graphs, line graphs, cartoon panels and imagined conversations with himself.
But something sinister lurks under the hilarious antics of the rugby team, and when Ryan Dean is finally confronted with a situation he can’t laugh about, he finds that nothing in his familiar box of narrative tricks is enough to describe it.
Reminiscent of Looking for Alaska, Winger packs a punch that will leave readers rethinking their assumptions about humor, friendship and the nature of storytelling—and about the broad range of emotions of which teenage boys are capable.