Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Year Published: 2013
Status: Sequel to be released in 2015
Page Count: 439
Winger by Andrew Smith has been getting a lot of praise lately, and I have been in the mood for contemporaries lately, so I decided to pick it up.
Winger is narrated by Ryan Dean, who is fourteen and a Junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He doesn't quite seem to fit in with the others in his grade because he is so young, and he is in love with his best friend Annie. Ryan Dean vows that Junior year with be a new start for him.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought Ryan Dean was a great narrator. His voice was so real, and so teenage boy (and yes I just used teenage boy as an adjective). I think this book would really appeal to the male audience. Ryan Dean plays rugby and it is a big part of his life. I really enjoyed this element to the story, even though I know absolutely nothing about rugby. The rugby team is Ryan Dean's family, and I think this book did a great job showing the bond between teammates. This book had so many funny moments that made me laugh out loud, and some sweet moments that made me smile.
Another element of the story I enjoyed was the comics drawn by Ryan Dean that accompanied the story. I didn't know this book had pictures until I started reading it, and it was a pleasant surprise.
Besides being a funny and enjoyable read, this book is full of substance. I found the themes to be very powerful and very powerfully displayed. The last few pages of this book were so beautifully done that I had to reread them as soon as I fished the book. Andrew Smith will be releasing a sequel tittle, Stand Off some time in 2015. I thought that this book had a great ending that wrapped up everything nicely, but I am happy to read about Ryan Dean's senior year. I recommend checking this book out for your summer reading list, and putting it in the hands of teenage boys who have a hard time finding books that interest them, but don't be put off by this if you are a girl, this book will be enjoyed by all who read it.
I am going to discuss the themes of this book further down below in a highlight to reveal format in order to keep this review spoiler free, but if you have read this I would love for you to add to my thoughts about the themes.
Highlight to reveal spoilery part: I thought this book was packed full of powerful themes that built up over the course of the whole novel and then came together beautifully in the last section of the novel. I thought the biggest theme of this novel is the power of words, especially when they are used to label others. Joey gets labeled as gay and Ryan Dean gets labeled as young. Ryan Dean spends the entirety of the novel trying to shake his label and Joey's label always accompanies him wherever he goes. Smith hints at the power of words throughout the novel when Ryan Dean writes swear words in his narrative but then explains that he didn't/wouldn't say that word out loud. Ryan Dean's refusal to speak out loud to anyone after the tragic event further shows the power of words, but also shows that sometimes words are not the strongest way to communicate with someone, when he talks about holding Annie's hand or Doc mom hugging him.
Another theme I saw was the idea of love versus sex. Ryan Dean's thoughts are full of sex, as is the case with most teenage boys, and his English teacher sees sex as the motivating factor in every book they read, but the book works to prove that love and sex are not the same. Ryan Dean is physical with Megan, but he loves Annie. I love this line from the last few pages of the book where Ryan Dean says, "Almost nothing at all is ever about sex, unless you never grow up, that is. It's about love, and, maybe not having it." (348).