Sunday, June 23, 2013


Book:  Winger
Author:  Andrew Smith
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Date:  Available now
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss
Grade:  This book honestly transcends a grade, but if I must, it’s an A+++++

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 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.

Initial reaction
::stunned silence::  I need a few minutes to collect my thoughts on this one.

Cover story
This book suffers from the “Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” problem.  A hideous cover that holds a beautiful and rare gem inside.  At first, I almost didn’t read this one, but after reading it, I realize the cover is PERFECT!!!

What’s the Story?
I’m not even sure that my review can do this book any justice.  This is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my lifetime.  It is powerful.  It is funny.  It is embarrassing.  It is awkward.  It is heart-wrenching.  It is touching.  In other words, it is life.  And it captures life as an adolescent boy so perfectly.

This book felt so real to me.  Reading through the eyes of Ryan Dean was phenomenal.  Well, if you consider the viewpoint of a 14 year old boy genius to be phenomenal!  Seriously, this book seemed to exactly capture that time and its confusion, awkwardness, tension and joy.  By the end of the book, I was just in love with Ryan Dean as all the other people in the book.

This book really reminded me of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  I think it’s the male narrator voice that I love.  Why?  Because it manages to take serious subjects and address them with a lightheartedness that is still blunt and straight to the point.  In many ways, you don’t even realize just what sorts of life-changing topics are being addressed because of the humor in the narration.  Then you realize that you have been dealing with all kinds of serious issues since the beginning of the book.  It’s just that boys don’t get whiny about them like girls.  Boys just take things as they come until they finally punch someone.  That sums up Ryan Dean and it actually sums up this book.  It just deals with the story and then it punches you.

Watching Ryan Dean grow up and navigate the issues facing him was like watching a beautiful flower growing from seed to bloom.  I just knew that even though he was starting out as a sort of ugly sprout, in the end, he would be breathtaking.  And he was.  This book is a poignant coming of age novel, but it is also much more.  By the end of the book, I loved those rough and tumble rugby players from O-Hall as if they were my own boys.  And I was devastated by the ending.  Yet, in spite of the horrible event that takes place, I still closed the book feeling hopeful for Ryan Dean and his friends.  They suffered through something horrible, but they all grew and changed and became better people during the novel.  That is one of the most uplifting parts of reading good literature.  Even in the face of a tragedy, the hero becomes a better man.

I don’t even know what else to say about this novel.  It’s a story that is so powerful that it has left me grasping for words to describe it.  All I can do is say that everyone should read it.  You won’t regret it.

The Soundtrack

I’m Just a Kid by Simple Plan

Teenagers by My Chemical Romance

Stop This Train by John Mayer

Wake Up by The Arcade Fire

In This Diary by The Ataris

She Is Love by Parachute

Oh It Is Love by Hellogoodbye

Light Years by Pearl Jam

Field of Innocence by Evanescence

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book is an A+.  It’s actually much higher than that, but since that’s my highest grade, it will have to do.  This book honestly transcends a grade.  Just go read it.

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