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Overview

A teen at boarding school grapples with life, love, and rugby in a heartbreakingly funny novel.

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 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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - A. J. Jacobs

Of all the young adult genres…the most popular right now may be the quietest: Aspiring John Green. GreenLit, as I like to call it, consists of realistic stories told by a funny, self-aware teenage narrator. These novels tend to have sharp dialogue, defective authority figures, occasional boozing, unrequited crushes and one or more heartbreaking twists…Andrew Smith's latest book…is firmly in GreenLit territory…Winger is a bit more cartoonish than Green's novels—both figuratively and literally—but it's smart, poignant and entertaining.

Publishers Weekly

This brutally honest coming-of-age novel from Smith (Passenger) unfolds through the eyes of Ryan Dean West, a 14-year-old, rugby-playing junior at the exclusive Pine Mountain school. He’s two years younger than his classmates, hopelessly in love with his best friend Annie, and stuck in Opportunity Hall, the residence reserved for the worst rule-breakers. As Ryan Dean struggles with football-team bullies, late-night escapades, academic pressures, and girl troubles, he also discovers his own strengths. Like puberty itself, this tale is alternately hilarious and painful, awkward and enlightening; Bosma’s occasional comics add another layer of whimsy and emotion, representing Ryan Dean’s own artistic bent. The characters and situations are profane and crass, reveling in talk of bodily functions and sexual innuendo, and the story is a cross between the films Lucas and Porky’s, with all the charm and gross-out moments that dichotomy suggests. That’s what makes the tragedy near the very end all the more shocking and sudden, changing the entire mood and impact of Ryan Dean’s journey. The last-minute twist may leave readers confused, angry, and heartbroken, but this remains an excellent, challenging read. Ages 12–up. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrew Brown Literary Agency. (May)

starred review Booklist

* "This deceptively lightweight novel packs an unexpectedly ferocious punch."

BCCB

"Sharp, funny, and perceptive about youthful male friendships. Readers who enjoy stylistically interesting stories about underdogs in boy world may therefore still find this witty and entertaining."

TeenReads

"Andrew Smith crafts something in Winger that will have you thinking about the things you choose to say and those you leave unsaid."

Matt de la Peña

"Winger is one of the most honest and beautifully raw novels I've read in a long time. Ryan Dean is a true original."

A. S. King

"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."

John Corey Whaley

I am seriously moved beyond words after finishing this beautiful, hilarious, and heart-exploding book. Reading Winger is like running down a steep hill—you should probably slow down, but it feels too good to stop. Andrew Smith has written a wildly original, hilarious, and heartbreaking ode to teenage confusion and frustration. You'll devour it and then go back for more."

CNN.com

You're not going to find futuristic fantasies or superpowers in Andrew Smith's young adult novel Winger. Fourteen-year-old Ryan Dean West's life at a boarding school for the wealthy is by all accounts ordinary — he has an unrequited crush on his female best friend, and he has to share a room with his rugby team's biggest bully — but that's also Winger''s" appeal.

Matt de la Peña


"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 Pea

"Winger is one of the most honest and beautifully raw novels I've read in a long time. Ryan Dean is a true original."

From the Publisher

"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."

"Winger is one of the most honest and beautifully raw novels I've read in a long time. Ryan Dean is a true original."

* "[A] brutally honest coming-of-age novel...Like puberty itself, this tale is alternately hilarious and painful, awkward and enlightening...an excellent, challenging read."

* "Smart, wickedly funny...In a magnificently frenetic first-person narration that includes clever short comics, charts and diagrams...Smith deftly builds characters—readers will suddenly realize they’ve effortlessly fallen in love with them—and he laces meaning and poignantly real dialogue into uproariously funny scatological and hormonally charged humor, somehow creating a balance between the two that seems to intensify both extremes. Bawdily comic but ultimately devastating, this is unforgettable."

* "This deceptively lightweight novel packs an unexpectedly ferocious punch."

"Amusing and touching in a “Looking for Alaska,” meets Rabelais meets “Friday Night Lights” kind of way.

New York Times Book Review A. J.Jacobs

"Amusing and touching in a “Looking for Alaska,” meets Rabelais meets “Friday Night Lights” kind of way.

starred review Shelf Awareness

* "Smith's masterful narrative of the hormonal yet insightful teenage boy flows smoothly throughout the novel...an unforgettable and unflaggingly appealing voice...A classic coming-of-age story that combines humor and heartbreak in just the right amounts."

BookPage

"A reader looking to pigeonhole Winger into a traditional genre category may be in for a surprise. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny sports story set at a boarding school, but it’s also a serious look at the many different forms of love—and a subtle meta-narrative about the process of telling a story...Reminiscent of Looking for Alaska, Winger packs a punch that will leave readers rethinking their assumptions about humor, friendship and the nature of storytelling—and about the broad range of emotions of which teenage boys are capable."

Kirkus Reviews

A boarding school is the setting for life-changing experiences in this smart, wickedly funny work of realistic fiction from the author of The Marbury Lens (2010). Self-proclaimed loser Ryan Dean is a 14-year-old junior at Pine Mountain, where he plays wing for the tightknit rugby team. In a magnificently frenetic first-person narration that includes clever short comics, charts and diagrams, he relates the story of the first few months of the school term as he's forced to room with an intimidating senior on the restricted, euphemistic Opportunity Hall, due to transgressions from the previous year. He's completely head over heels for Annie, an older classmate who insists she can't be in love with him due to his age, and lives in fear of the "glacially unhot" teacher Mrs. Singer, who he's certain is a witch responsible for cursing him with a "catastrophic injury to [his] penis," among other ailments. He's also navigating letting go of some old friends and becoming closer to one of his teammates, Joey, who's gay. Smith deftly builds characters--readers will suddenly realize they've effortlessly fallen in love with them--and he laces meaning and poignantly real dialogue into uproariously funny scatological and hormonally charged humor, somehow creating a balance between the two that seems to intensify both extremes. Bawdily comic but ultimately devastating, this is unforgettable. (Fiction. 14 & up)

What to Read This Summer: Top 20 Picks CNN.com

"You're not going to find futuristic fantasies or superpowers in Andrew Smith's young adult novel Winger. Fourteen-year-old Ryan Dean West's life at a boarding school for the wealthy is by all accounts ordinary — he has an unrequited crush on his female best friend, and he has to share a room with his rugby team's biggest bully — but that's also Winger''s appeal.

Matt de la Pena

"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

"Winger is one of the most honest and beautifully raw novels I've read in a long time. Ryan Dean is a true original."

School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—Smith takes readers inside the mind of Ryan Dean West, nicknamed Winger for his position on the rugby team of his tony private school. He's brilliant, immature (a 14-year-old junior), and anxious to prove himself to his teammates and especially to his crush, 16-year-old Annie. "You push things too far" advises his best friend and teammate Joey, who is gay and accepted for his honesty about it and his status as team captain. With only Joey, Annie, and the Tao of rugby to guide him, it's no wonder Ryan Dean has more than his share of missteps while trying to reinvent himself. Some are painfully awkward, and some are laugh-out-loud hysterical, especially his sponge bath by a hot nurse. The team's on-field camaraderie deteriorates into simmering hostility off the field, rife with drinking, crudeness, profanity, and constant verbal slurs. Still, readers will be shocked by a climactic violent act against Joey that leaves Ryan Dean changed forever. Smith's understanding of teen males is evident; nuances add depth and authenticity to characters that could have been clichés. However, Annie feels a bit idealized: one wonders what she sees in Ryan Dean. The pace moves quickly and holds readers' interest, punctuated by Bosma's charts and graphic-novel pages that cleverly depict the boy's hilarious inner turmoil. Readers don't need to know anything about rugby to appreciate this moving, funny coming-of-age novel.—M. Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442444928
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 05/14/2013
Pages: 438
Sales rank: 636,712
Product dimensions: 5.92(w) x 8.38(h) x 1.42(d)
Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Winger
NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY SUCK WORSE than being a junior in high school, alone at the top of your class, and fourteen years old all at the same time. So the only way I braced up for those agonizing first weeks of the semester, and made myself feel any better about my situation, was by telling myself that it had to be better than being a senior at fifteen.

Didn’t it?

My name is Ryan Dean West.

Ryan Dean is my first name.

You don’t usually think a single name can have a space and two capitals in it, but mine does. Not a dash, a space. And I don’t really like talking about my middle name.

I also never cuss, except in writing, and occasionally during silent prayer, so excuse me up front, because I can already tell I’m going to use the entire dictionary of cusswords when I tell the story of what happened to me and my friends during my eleventh-grade year at Pine Mountain.

PM is a rich kids’ school. But it’s not only a prestigious rich kids’ school; it’s also for rich kids who get in too much trouble because they’re alone and ignored while their parents are off being congressmen or investment bankers or professional athletes. And I know I wasn’t actually out of control, but somehow Pine Mountain decided to move me into Opportunity Hall, the dorm where they stuck the really bad kids, after they caught me hacking a cell phone account so I could make undetected, untraceable free calls.

They nearly kicked me out for that, but my grades saved me.

I like school, anyway, which increases the loser quotient above and beyond what most other kids would calculate, simply based on the whole two-years-younger-than-my-classmates thing.

The phone was a teacher’s. I stole it, and my parents freaked out, but only for about fifteen minutes. That was all they had time for. But even in that short amount of time, I did count the phrase “You know better than that, Ryan Dean” forty-seven times.

To be honest, I’m just estimating, because I didn’t think to count until about halfway through the lecture.

We’re not allowed to have cell phones here, or iPods, or anything else that might distract us from “our program.” And most of the kids at PM completely buy in to the discipline, but then again, most of them get to go home to those things every weekend. Like junkies who save their fixes for when there’s no cops around.

I can understand why things are so strict here, because it is the best school around for the rich deviants of tomorrow. As far as the phone thing went, I just wanted to call Annie, who was home for the weekend. I was lonely, and it was her birthday.

I already knew that my O-Hall roommate was going to be Chas Becker, a senior who played second row on the school’s rugby team. Chas was as big as a tree, and every bit as smart, too. I hated him, and it had nothing to do with the age-old, traditional rivalry between backs and forwards in rugby. Chas was a friendless jerk who navigated the seas of high school with his rudder fixed on a steady course of intimidation and cruelty. And even though I’d grown about four inches since the end of last year and liked to tell myself that I finally—finally!—didn’t look like a prepubescent minnow stuck in a pond of hammerheads like Chas, I knew that my reformative dorm assignment with Chas Becker in the role of bunk-bed mate was probably nothing more than an “opportunity” to go home in a plastic bag.

But I knew Chas from the team, even though I never talked to him at practice.

I might have been smaller and younger than the other boys, but I was the fastest runner in the whole school for anything up to a hundred meters, so by the end of the season last year, as a thirteen-year-old sophomore, I was playing wing for the varsity first fifteen (that’s first string in rugby talk).

Besides wearing ties and uniforms, all students were required to play sports at PM. I kind of fell into rugby because running track was so boring, and rugby’s a sport that even small guys can play—if you’re fast enough and don’t care about getting hit once in a while.

So I figured I could always outrun Chas if he ever went over the edge and came after me. But even now, as I write this, I can still remember the feeling of sitting on the bottom bunk, there in our quiet room, just staring in dread at the door, waiting for my roommate to show up for first-semester check-in on that first Sunday morning in September.

All I had to do was make it through the first semester of eleventh grade without getting into any more trouble, and I’d get a chance to file my appeal to move back into my room with Seanie and JP in the boys’ dorm. But staying out of trouble, like not getting killed while living with Chas Becker, was going to be a full-time job, and I knew that before I even set eyes on him.

Customer Reviews