REVIEW: Winger by Andrew Smith

"Winger" by Andrew Smith
“Winger” by Andrew Smith

Ryan Dean West’s life is complicated. He’s a fourteen-year-old junior at Pine Mountain, a school for rich kids. He’s stuck rooming with the biggest jerk on the rugby team in the dorm for miscreants and troublemakers. And he’s totally in love with his best friend, Annie, who thinks of him as a little kid.

As Ryan Dean tries to get a handle on school, life, and rugby, he finds himself muddling through a lot of decisions and making some major mistakes along the way.  But nothing can prepare him for what comes next. And when the unthinkable happens, Ryan Dean has to find a way to hang onto the important things–no matter what.

I said a silent prayer.

Actually, silent is probably the only type of prayer a guy should attempt when his head’s in a toiler.
—Hardcover edition
Ryan Dean West, aka Winger, offers us the opportunity through his humorous first-person narration (and his creative use of infographics and doodles) to glimpse the hidden world of a teenage private schoolboy. Impossible love for an older girl, changing and growing friendships, first drinks, parties, bullies and rivalries, and proving himself to adults… Winger reveals it all.

Raw and powerful, the whole story is populated with well-drawn–no pun intended–characters, from Winger’s roommate Chas and best friends Seanie and JP, crush Annie, cool gay guy Joey, and even the adults and parents who impact his life. Readers may find Winger’s self-deprecating tone repetitive, but he proves to his audience that he is not the loser he thinks he is: he is just another kid, living life and growing up.

Appropriate for ages 14+. Contains mild drug/alcohol use, sexual situations, violence on and off the field, strong language, and intense situations. Deals with burgeoning adulthood, self-respect, friendships and romance, sexuality, bullying, hate crimes, and death.
If you…

  • Enjoy private school stories, like “Prep” and “A Separate Peace”
  • Want to bawl your eyes out
  • Have ever felt like the whole world still thought you were a kid
  • Are a fan of “boy” books
  • Need a nice, long read that won’t leave you too soon

YA Contemporary
Hardcover, 439 pages
Published May 14th, 2013 by Simon & Schuster (ISBN 1442444924)

(Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.)

Review by Olivia Hennis, originally published 2/20/2014 on


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