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A teen at boarding school grapples with life, love, and rugby in this unforgettable novel that is “alternately hilarious and painful, awkward and enlightening” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

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.

Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications with the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics. 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 infographics 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442444935
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 128,487
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

Andrew Smith is the author of several novels for young adults, including Winger, Stand-Off, 100 Sideways Miles, and the Michael L. Printz Honor Book Grasshopper Jungle. He lives in a remote area in the mountains of Southern California with his family, two horses, two dogs, and three cats. He doesn’t watch television, and occupies himself by writing, bumping into things outdoors, and taking ten-mile runs on snowy trails.

What People are Saying About This

"Winger broke my heart, like any great book should. Andrew Smith is a brave and talented storyteller who blows me away every time. Readers will love Ryan Dean West. This book is powerful, sweet and heart-wrenching."—A. S. King, Printz Honor-winning author of Please Excuse Vera Dietz

"Winger is one of the most honest and beautifully raw novels I've read in a long time. Ryan Dean is a true original."—Matt de la Peña, author of Mexican WhiteBoy and We Were Here

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to


By Andrew Smith


Ryan Dean seems to have everything going for him but he feels like a loser. At fourteen he's already a junior at Pine Mountain Academy, a prestigious coed boarding school in Oregon. But it's tough being two years younger than your classmates, even if you are at the top of your class and a star on the varsity rugby team. And it’s even tougher when you’re in crazy love with your best friend, Annie Altman, who thinks it would be nothing short of ridiculous to be in love with you.

Wanting desperately to fit in among his grade peers and trying to grow up too fast, Ryan Dean struggles with the emotional maturity not yet realized in his youthful innocence. He makes impulsive choices that mess things up and sometimes threaten to ruin everything. What would he do without his best friend, Joey, whose much-needed influence helps Ryan Dean get back on track? But just when Ryan Dean finally gets a grip and life is looking good, an inconceivable tragedy strikes. Things can never be the same.

Discussion Questions

1. As narrator, Ryan Dean tells his deeply moving story in his own first-person voice. Do you find his voice to be relatable?

2. The use of metanarrative allows Ryan Dean to attempt, as best he can through a personal perspective of contemplation and reflection, to recall and understand the past. Through the writing process, enhanced and supported by delightfully humorous leaps of imagination in comic strip frames, handwritten notes, diagrams, graphs, and charts that he uses to make sense of his complex thought processes, he carefully unfolds and illustrates his story. What effect does this way of representing his story have on the reader?

3. The clever, witty, and entertaining tone of Ryan Dean’s narration balances the weightier themes such as self-control and consequences, sexuality, and violence. What are some other themes that carry a visceral burden in this novel?

4. Joey strongly influences the way Ryan Dean looks at his life. As a level-headed and compassionate mentor reminding Ryan Dean of his own inner guidance to help gain self-control, Joey helps Ryan Dean expand his perspectives and embrace change to create a more meaningful future. What are the essential lessons Ryan Dean learns from Joey?

5. Consider Joey’s philosophy as expressed by Ryan Dean in the prologue: “Joey told me nothing ever goes back exactly the way it was, that things expand and contract—like breathing, but you can never fill your lungs up with the same air twice. He said some of the smartest things I ever heard, and he’s the only one of my friends who really tried to keep me on track too. And I’ll be honest. I know exactly how hard that was.” What does this philosophy mean to you? What does it suggest as a key concept in the novel?

6. Ryan Dean seems to have it all. He easily excels at academics, is a gifted athlete, and is a loyal friend to his male companions. Why does he believe he is such a loser?

7. The rugby team trusts Coach M, believing he’d never let the football team get away with anything dangerous. But Casey and Nick have a habit of pushing the limits with dangerously contentious behavior. How did this play out in the end? What and/or who was responsible for the breakdown?

8. What was going on with Seanie? According to Ryan Dean, “He probably kept little stalker charts and notebooks on everyone he knew.” Is he harmless, or do you think his hacking into and messing around on other people’s websites can be considered cyberbullying? In the end, did his violation of Casey’s MySite page have repercussions?

9. How did Ryan Dean justify his relationship with Megan? What did he mean by referring to her as a safety net?

10. What do you think “Stonehenge,” the wishing circle, symbolizes? What does it tell us about the four friends who created it?

11. In order to explain his wishing circle wish to Annie, Ryan Dean draws a Venn diagram of his life as he sees it. He feels alone in the crescent, outside the overlap of everyone, rejected and marginalized. He wishes everyone, especially Annie, wouldn’t notice so much the fourteen-year-old eleventh grade part of him that doesn’t conform to the overlap. What was Annie’s response to this wish? What would your wish be?

12. What does Annie’s wish for Ryan Dean at the wishing circle tell us about her? What does it suggest about their relationship?

13. What did it take for Ryan Dean to admit, “I finally didn’t feel like such a loser?” Why didn’t this feeling last? What did Annie say that turned Ryan Dean into the Wild Boy of Bainbridge Island?

14. Ryan Dean’s apologies to the victims of the Wild Boy, and to everyone he had wronged, were a crucial step in his journey toward a new understanding of himself and how he conducts himself in his world. Do you think Ryan Dean and JP could ever be true friends again? How about Ryan Dean and Seanie?

15. In what ways do Annie’s and Ryan Dean’s perspectives differ? How does Annie mature throughout the novel?

16. Ryan Dean anticipated his time with Annie at her home on Bainbridge Island as the weekend “I hoped would change my life.” Do you think it did?

17. Consider Ryan Dean’s thoughts about Megan: “I really did think she was a great person. I just knew better than to get too close to her again . . . something’s changing in me.” What insight has Ryan Dean gained about himself and the consequences of his actions?

18. Ryan Dean set out to make eleventh grade a year of reinventing himself, to not be such an outcast. Was he successful? In what ways? What was the most important thing he learned?

19. How did the book end? Why do you think the author chose to close the book in this manner? Did it surprise you? What does the ending reveal about the heart of this story?

20. At one time Ryan Dean believed he was better suited to O-Hall and didn’t belong in the boys’ dorm. Why did he think that? Why does Smith suggest at the end of the novel that nobody ever needed O-Hall again?

Questions for Further Discussion

1. In the Acknowledgments section, Andrew Smith suggests, “To play rugby and to be a rugby player are inexplicably enmeshed. There is something about the sport that attaches to the character.” What does Smith mean by this? What is it that attaches to the character? Could you apply this idea to any team sport?

2. What does Ryan Dean’s self-convincing mantra “Crede quod habes, et habes” mean to him? Of what is he trying to convince himself by adopting it?

3. “If you messed with the rugby team we were going to mess right back. But it wasn’t a threatening or intimidating ‘messing with’—it was always meant to show that we could take a joke, and joke back, too.” Is this tradition of harmless banter typical at your school? Discuss the relationship between the football and rugby teams at PM.

4. Teenage experience with drug and alcohol abuse is often concerned with larger issues of friendship and loyalty. How does this relate to Chas? To Casey and Nick?

5. Lies and deceit come easily to Ryan Dean. Why does he feel the need to lie? Are some lies harmless? Are all lies morally deficient?

6. What is the purpose of the ultra un-hot and “visually abrasive” Mrs. Singer in the novel? Annoying Mr. Farrow? The old pervert Mr. Wellins? What do Ryan Dean’s perceptions of and reactions to these authority figures tell us about him?

7. Remembering Joey’s comment about nothing ever going back to the way it was, what does it suggest about Ryan Dean when he says to Annie, “I want you to make it be yesterday again”?

8. The reader doesn’t know much about Chas Becker except that he’s a friendless jerk who overcompensates with his bullying. What can you infer about Chas from the text? What is Chas compensating for? Do you know someone like Chas?

9. Chas and Ryan Dean become unlikely friends. What balances out their relationship?

10. There were hints throughout the novel that Casey Palmer was “a dangerous psychopath.” Cite examples from the text. Why were these hints not taken more seriously?

11. Why doesn’t Ryan Dean think he’s brave? Do you think he is?

12. Has this novel changed the way you regard injustice? Prejudice? Bullying? Death?

Extension Activities

1. The coming-of-age novel is one of the most popular themes in storytelling, timeless and universal. This theme is not confined to novels. We see it in all forms of art, including plays, poetry, TV, and film. It takes a protagonist through moral challenges, pressures, and expectations, experiencing heartbreak and suffering as he sheds his childhood innocence for a more mature self-awareness. Research the common tensions and awakenings that are part of the coming-of-age process. Explore and discuss Andrew Smith’s Winger as a coming-of-age story.

2. Read a contemporary coming-of-age novel, such as Andrew Smith’s 2015 Michael L. Printz Honor Book Grasshopper Jungle and/or John Green’s Printz Award – winning Looking for Alaska (2006). Compare and contrast the protagonists, settings, symbols, and themes of these novels with Andrew Smith’s Winger.

3. Read Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) and consider the premise that to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence. How does Atticus Finch explain to Scout what it means to be a mockingbird? Discuss the character of Joey Cosentino as a “mockingbird” in Andrew Smith’s Winger.

4. Listen to “How Many Friends,” the ninth track of the Who’s 1975 album The Who by Numbers. This is the song Ryan Dean sang to Joey in the last moments they were together. What was Ryan Dean saying to Joey by choosing this song?

5. Read the rugby poem “Why We Play the Game” by Australian poet Rupert McCall. Relate McCall’s poem to Andrew Smith’s comments on rugby and rugby players in his Acknowledgments section of Winger.

6. Read “Indian Camp” and “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife” from Ernest Hemingway’s collection of stories In Our Time (1925), some of the best writing Ryan Dean had ever read. Why do you think Andrew Smith chose to include these specific stories in his novel? Do they relate in any ways to Winger?

7. Visit and read “A Grieving Teen Has the Right to . . .” presented by The Doughy Center, The National Center for Grieving Children and Families. Are there additional rights you think could be added?

Guide written in 2015 by Judith Clifton, Educational Consultant, Chatham, MA.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

Customer Reviews

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Winger 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you're a fan of John Green, read this book. If you want to laugh long and hard, read this book. It will make you laugh, it will rip your heart into a million pieces, and it will make you wish it will never end. For people who enjoy a great, heartfelt, hilarious, and deep story, get Winger as soon as you can. You will NOT regret it.
knoxdiver More than 1 year ago
Wow. This book is freaking brilliant. I mean it. I think this is top 5 for this year, if not all time, and is most definitely the most heartbreaking this year if not all time. So one of the best things Winger has got going for it is it's male pov written by a male. This ship is real, y'all (unlike Ryan Dean, I try not to swear, even in my writing)! I mean, Ryan Dean is just such a....boy. A teenage boy at that. I had no trouble believing all the ridiculous things he thinks, says, and does throughout the novel. Peeing in a gatorade bottle rather than going to the bathroom? Check. Being pervy with every female character in the book, particularly in his thoughts? Check. Ryan Dean is really astute and a remarkably good narrator, but he's also straight-up dumb sometimes, but that's okay because it fits so well with reality as well as the world of the book. See, when Ryan Dean is acting like a hormonal idiot, Andrew used his other characters to take up the slack. There's Joey Cosentino: the Voice of Reason. Joey's job is to point out every time Ryan Dean is being stupid, but he always has RD's back, on the rugby field and off, and I have nothing but respect for him. He's a Nice Guy, but he's not above getting dirty to defend himself or calling someone out when they need to be put in place. Annie: the Best Friend/Love Interest. It's way cool seeing Annie face reality when it comes to her relationship with Ryan Dean. I, being a girl who at one time was sixteen, innately know what's going on in Annie's head so it's way cool understanding her thoughts while actually reading from Ryan Dean's mind. Chas: the Hostile Roommate & Teammate/Romantic Competition. Chas's purpose really confused me during much of the novel, but his presence actually puts Ryan Dean into the role of bad guy at one point, which forces the reader and Ryan Dean to actively acknowledge his fault. Also, Chas is instrumental to the resolution of Ryan Dean's story. Seanie (the Comic Relief, insofar as sometimes Ryan Dean has to be serious for a secondf) and JP (the Other Romanic Competition). I didn't care a whole whole lot for them because Seanie is just an oddball and JP is a douche, but we see Ryan Dean in a different light because of them. Ryan Dean makes a lot of mistakes, and Seanie and JP are kind of the collateral damage. There's Megan: Love Interest/Temptation. While Annie is spending her time wrestling with her feelings for Ryan Dean, Megan decisively chooses to spend some quality time with Ryan Dean pressed up against the water fountain. Megan helps Ryan Dean transform into the Wild Boy of Bainbridge Island. Casey: the Bully. Grade A douchenozzle. His presence gives Ryan Dean the opportunity to be both the victim and the hero. The characters are all great. The story, at least at first, was a bit slow for me, but it picks up. I thought Winger was supposed to be just a funny novel. And it really is a hilarious look at Ryan Dean trying to fit in at his school, trying to navigate the waters of romance, trying to not die either on the rugby field (by an opponent OR teammate because it was touch-and-go sometimes), trying not to be cursed by Ms. Singer. Winger reads like a journal with Ryan Dean frequently breaking the fourth wall to talk to the reader, rating things on his ridiculous scales like my rating above, and drawing awesome cartoons. Seriously, the drawings add an awesome artistic element. I really hope this trend gets a kickstart because I love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me begging on my knees for more when i finished reading it! I wouldnt know what to do if i havent found this book anf if you are even thinking of getting the book, you NEED it in hard cover because of the awsome cover ans spine!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Andrew Smith has a way with words. This is a beautiful, funny, wonderful story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What can I say? Funny. Real. Heartbreaking. Everything you could ever want, right?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book after seeing it at the library and was hooked after the first page This book realy changed my life and opened my eyes I imediately recomended it to two
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book thinking I would just have to push through it but I was happily suprised. One minute I fell off my bed laughing and the next I was crying.
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
Why did I wait so long to read this book?!?! I could kick myself for putting this one off for so long. This book has to be one of the best YA novels that I have ever read. It is really that good. I read this book cover to cover in a single day and I can't think of a better way to spend a free day. Of course, I really didn't have much of a choice because once I started reading this story, I simply could not put it down. Ryan Dean West is in many ways an average 14 year old boy. He feels like a loser quite often and he cannot keep his mind off of girls. One thing that sets Ryan Dean apart from the other students at his boarding school is that he is a junior despite the fact that he is only 14. Ryan Dean doesn't let anything stop him. He plays left wing for the school's rugby team, which is where he received the nickname "Winger." Ryan Dean is living in the O-Hall this year because he got into a little bit of trouble the previous year. Opportunity Hall is the residence for trouble makers and Ryan Dean finds himself mixed in with a group of boys who aren't all exactly welcoming. He does make some new friends, finds himself in a few conflicts, and learns to deal with girls during the course of the story. I loved the way this story was told. I absolutely love it when a story can incorporate humor without losing its focus. This book had a thread of humor on nearly every page and none of it felt forced. I never laughed out loud but I was amused for the majority of the story. I really like the fact that the story was not told simply through a narrative. The artwork that was used to help tell the story really worked well and helped bring Ryan Dean to life. I also really liked the way that his thoughts were shown in the story through plays and other creative methods. This was one of those story that really grew on me. At first, Ryan Dean did seem like an awkward boy who was a little clueless. The more I read the more I grew to like Ryan Dean. He really was a good guy who sometimes lacked direction. I also grew to like his friends. This book really helped me to remember how difficult being a teenager can be. The ending of this book blew me away. I never saw it coming and I am so glad that nobody spoiled it for me. I would highly recommend this book. It was funny and touching in a way that is rarely found in a single story. This is the first book by Andrew Smith that I have read but I am definitely planning to check out his other books soon.
Chancie More than 1 year ago
Not a bad book, but also not a great book. It had pretty slow pacing, and the final climax came in way too late to truly mean enough. Also, majority of the characters are hard to like or side with. This book had way too much of "older women attracted to young boys," in my opinion. It was creepy the amount of older students who were attracted to the 14 year old. Otherwise, it was readable and worth finishing, but it wasn't amazing or anything like that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very good i cried when i read the part about joey and when he died . I would recommend to this to almost EVERYONE 13-up!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Annie x Ryan Dean = OTP
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
caleb_geyer More than 1 year ago
Ryan Dean West (“Winger” to the guys on the rugby team) is a Junior at a boarding school. He’s different than the other boys, though. He’s only 14. This is the story of Ryan Dean’s life-altering year – dealing with first kisses, first bullies, first love, first loss – all while trying to remove himself from the problem that is being the “little guy”.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. If you are on the fence at all, get it and read it. I'm sure you'll love it as much as I did. I was blown away by the character development and couldn't put this book down.  Amazing wonderful book that I would recommend to anyone and everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AA1314 More than 1 year ago
An amazing story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing, never got bored reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a beautiful book that's all I could say. Funny, with a little romance, and relatable situations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Overall amazing book! It's worth the read, you won't regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a really good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago