Winger

Andrew Smith, Author, Sam Bosma, Illustrator
Andrew Smith, illus. by Sam Bosma. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4424-4492-8
Reviewed on: 03/04/2013
Release date: 05/14/2013
Paperback - 438 pages - 978-1-4424-4493-5
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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)
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