Author: Andrew Smith
Series: Winger #1
Publication Date: May 14th, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of Pages: 439
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Source: Public library
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.
I’d been eyeing Winger for a while when I finally picked it up. And when I actually read it, I flew through the whole thing.
Unfortunately, I can’t give it 5 stars due to a few reasons. But first, I’ll talk about some of the things that I did like.
The voice of Ryan Dean was glorious. It was fabulous and entertaining and so obnoxiously realistic (I hope). I can’t help but feel like Ryan Dean represented that one stage that a lot of guys go through.
The pervy stage.
Obviously, I have no clue what guys are thinking. I barely know what the average girl is thinking about half the time. But I feel like Ryan Dean’s internal ramblings were genuine. I didn’t like all the objectification that went on in his mind, but it all kind of rolled up into Ryan Dean’s personality. I kept bouncing back and forth between distaste and like for him. Sometimes I wanted to throttle him, but other times, he was just such an entertaining narrator. He’s paranoid and stupid and funny. He was just an entertaining character.
The art and quirks of the book were great. I love it. There’s rugby (which I still don’t understand) and funny events scattered throughout the book. Some of the interactions are done really well. The book was a really easy read. There’s a fantastic best-friend character, Joey. He’s fabulous. The book addresses sexuality, friendship, relationships, and so many other important topics of discussion.
I’m not even sure this book had a plot. Or a point. It just seemed to be a narrative of Ryan Dean’s everyday life and how he grew up. Sort of.
The progression of the character development was one of the weakest aspects of the book. Although Ryan Dean was a somewhat insecure, highly perverted character throughout the novel, his change of character at the end was kind of sudden.
I totally understand the idea that a life-changing event could cause a person to act completely different. I get that. The thing is that I didn’t like the execution of the plot twist or the way it was handled afterwards. And Ryan Dean actually began to change before the plot twist. So his changes seemed insincere and weirdly implemented. On top of this, the falling action didn’t really begin until the last 50ish pages. As a result, the conclusion felt like a slap in the face. It felt rushed and unexpected. I felt like screaming. A lot. I actually did kind of scream. I kind of get how it was supposed to be unexpected because of the fact that stuff like this IS unexpected in real life. But still. It took my heart out and stomped on it.
I want to talk about the characterization in the book.
I had a huge problem with the female characters.
Ryan Dean is thrown into a love triangle pretty early on in the book. We all know who he’s going to end up with. It’s literally the most predictable aspect of the plot. There’s Annie, the girl he’s “in love” with, and Megan, the hot girl that he always makes out with.
Awesome. We have two somewhat important female characters. But they’re literally the flattest characters I’ve ever read about. There’s no depth to them. There’s a surface image and some seriously annoying traits of each. They felt like caricatures of female cliches. The slut. The smart, confused girl. The loud girl. There’s a bunch of girls, but none of them felt like real people. I don’t know if Smith did it on purpose. Maybe he wanted to portray them the way Ryan Dean viewed the girls? Or show that Ryan Dean barely knew anything beyond the surface about them? But I saw the same problem in 100 Sideways Miles, so maybe it’s not intentional.
All I can say is that I’m seriously glad that Smith acknowledges that he doesn’t understand girls. Recently, he was in an interview where he was asked why he hasn’t written a female protagonist. His response was that he did not understand women and thus, didn’t want to try to write from the point-of-view of one. I have tons of respect for him. Read an article about it here.