Teen Stuff: Winger, by Andrew Smith
In one of my favorite books so far this year, author Andrew Smith introduces us to Ryan Dean West in Winger. Ryan Dean is a 14 year old junior at Pine Mountain boarding school, and he was put in the dormitory for troublemakers, which he isn’t really, but there was that one time, so he’s rooming with others who really do cause trouble. He and his fellow Opportunity Hall dorm-mates are on the rugby team, which is a challenge since he’s considered the runt.
Ryan Dean, self proclaimed “loser,” spends the year playing rugby, fending off his teammates and their antics, trying to survive his roommate Chas’s bullying, falling in love with his best friend Annie who two years his senior, and making friends with a fellow teammate who he learns is gay. The book is a sweet look at the teen boy-brain that is Ryan Dean. He shares his experiences with his friendships, school, rugby, girls, and growing up through his funny illustrations that are strewn throughout the novel.
Winger is a funny-turned-dark coming of age story that is laugh-out-lout funny, honest, raw, moving, and then utterly heartbreaking as tragedy strikes. This book would be a good match for fans of John Green’s style of humorous realistic young adult fiction with strong characters. (Grades 9 and up)