Author: Andrew Smith
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
ARC provided by publisher
This book should come with a disclaimer. Something like WARNING: May cause spontaneous laughter. May also cause uncontrollable weeping.
Winger by Andrew Smith starts off as a boarding school romp about a 14-year-old genius who plays rugby and dreams about dating his best friend, Annie, who seems out of his league because she's two years older.
Ryan Dean (that's his first name) narrates the story of his junior year at a fancypants private school in the Pacific Northwest. His rugby nickname is Winger and though he call himself a skinny-ass bitch, he never backs down from a fight. He is hilarious in his accounts of life at school and they're often punctuated by the comics he draws.
What could have been a delightfully fun story about Ryan Dean and his pursuit of Annie and surviving rugby turns into something much darker in the last few chapters. No spoilers here, but the gut-punching plot twist is organic and completely believable.
My one quibble with those last chapters is that I wanted more. Ryan Dean's words and pictures are so effusive in the rest of the novel that I understand why there's this shift at the end, but I still wanted more. It's to Andrew Smith's credit that after 448 pages, I wasn't ready to leave these characters.
I would recommend Winger to readers who enjoyed Butter by Erin Jade Lange or Feed by M.T. Anderson.