17 June 2013

(ARC) Book Review: Winger by Andrew Smith

by Andrew Smith
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Published: May 14th 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Format Acquired: ARC from publisher via Edelweiss (thank you!)
Purchase: Barnes & NobleThe Book Depository | Amazon
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.
I don't know why people find the cover so hideous. I don't think it is. I actually like how it captures the overall feel of the book. It's different and raw and funny and painful and oh-I-have-so-many-ands-now. The cover looks different than most YA books, the title's different, the plot.... okay maybe the whole nerd-makes-something-out-of-his-loser-life plot isn't that different but hey, the main character's voice is entertaining enough for me to enjoy the cliche of it all.

So let's get down to what made me love the book immediately: the humor.
I said a silent prayer. Actually, silent is probably the only type of prayer a guy should attempt when his head's in a toilet.

And, in my prayer, I made sure to include specific thanks for the fact that the school year hadn't started yet, so the porcelain was impeccably white - as soothing to the eye as freshly fallen snow - and the water smelled like lemons and a heated swimming pool in summertime, all rolled into one.

Except it was a fucking toilet.

And my head was in it.
This was the first thing I read and it literally made me laugh out loud. I enjoyed reading the story through the eyes of Ryan Dean - yes, he has two first names. It's not just Ryan. Not Ryan-Dean either. Ryan Dean. It's weird and awkward but I love it. Ryan Dean was very witty and funny. The narrations and dialogues were  highly entertaining. However, and this is a common problem I noticed with overly intelligent protagonists, there were instances where I felt like his humor was getting annoying. For example, I love that he poked fun at himself by saying he had a "skinny bitch" body but when that term got used repetitively, it wasn't as funny anymore. Not to worry though because that didn't really do much to influence my rating.

Aside from Ryan Dean's voice, I also liked the dynamics between Ryan Dean and his friends. It's hard imagining a 14-year old trying to fit in when he's 2 years younger than his batch. He may have the intelligence to keep up in class but everyone still considered him as a kid and that made him feel like an outsider. But seeing how Ryan Dean eventually fit in with the boys from O-Hall, his friends outside O-Hall and girls was quite interesting. He felt more authentic whenever he'd push himself to do something, anything, to fit in because his mind would go on overdrive trying to figure things out. You can just see how insecure he actually was despite the confidence he displays for everyone. The honesty in his thoughts was definitely a plus for me.

While most of the book was highly entertaining because of the protagonist's wit and the generally light feel of the story, the ending took a quite abrupt and dark turn. I didn't really like how heavy the ending got because there wasn't much added to it to make the sudden change sensible. True, you can kind of see it coming but to end it so abruptly like that wasn't really enough. At least to me it wasn't.

Abrupt ending or not, this book is still great. It sort of has that John Green feel to it so I think fans of that author would definitely enjoy Winger. The characters were real, the message was solid and it's definitely entertaining from the first page up to the last. Readers shouldn't miss out on this one.

My Rating
(Refer to rating system)

About the author
Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is the author of GHOST MEDICINE, a 2009 ALA/YALSA "Best Books for Young Adults," and IN THE PATH OF FALLING OBJECTS, a 2010 ALA/YALSA "Best Books for Young Adults."

In November, 2010, Andrew Smith's THE MARBURY LENS will be released by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan.



  1. I've been hearing good things about this book. Anything with a John Green flare is worth reading. Great review :)

  2. It seems a very cute book, must search it :)



  3. I really want to read this book and I've been reading but raves. Huhu. I hope I get to it soon. And yes, I love the cover! Plus, boarding school and an outsider? Color me envy that you've read this book already! I will get to this soon. I promise myself! Thanks for selling the book! :P