So I'm crammed on an airplane right now and on the verge of hysterical sobbing because no one warned me about this book. I'd gotten endless recommendations to read it, especially from Butter, who absolutely LOVES Andrew Smith. When I was picking out books to bring with me on my trip, this made the list, and something about the sarcastic tone of the book pulled me right in.
I actually read most of it on various planes, compelled by the writing style of Andrew Smith. Even though the book was severely lacking in a well-defined plot, I couldn't get enough of the story and characters, mainly because I had a bunch of different theories all regarding what was going to happen to all the characters. This book has a very lighthearted tone, but that takes a huge plunge right in the last 30 or so pages.
Reading it, I was expecting something that was really more on the shallow side than on the intense philosophy side, thus making it the perfect book for a vacation. What I actually feel now, is very VERY upset. The amount of feels associated with this book is not light at ALL, so please take that into consideration when you decide to read this book.
Oh yeah, a summary might be good. Now, I didn't know anything about Winger going into it, except that it was about rugby. Honestly, you really don't need to know anything about the book to go into it, and I'd even count knowing that there was a very feels-intense ending as a spoiler. For those of you who want to know some more about it, Winger is about Ryan Dean West, a fourteen-year-old junior at a high school for rich kids whose parents choose to send them away. He's on the varsity rugby team, so his only real friends are with him on the rugby team. For his junior year, he gets moved to O-Hall, where all the 'bad' kids go, away from his friends and stuck with people he really doesn't like. The book mainly covers his junior year and how he deals with changes that are going on in his life.
I'd probably give it around a 4.25-4.5 stars (I know, the decimals, but I love decimals), since I had some problems with Ryan Dean, but some of the other characters and the way Andrew Smith handled Ryan Dean's character made up for it.
Now, it's time for my spoiler-filled rant, because I can't with the feels anymore. If you haven't yet read Winger, go read the book then come back to discuss it with me. Trust me with this book, you want the full effect.
- Ryan Dean: Let's just take a moment with Ryan Dean because, most of the book, I honestly couldn't stand him. He was cocky, extremely womanizing, he had a one track mind, and couldn't figure out why in the world everyone didn't like him. I thought he was alright, until he decided to play poker and get drunk doing it. When he had his hangover, I just blocked out the whole event in my mind, saying that he'd learned his lesson not to drink. But then he goes, later in the book, getting drunk AGAIN. Come on, Ryan Dean, please value your fourteen-year-old brain. But that paled in comparison to the way he treated women. Every time he introduced a new female character, he always had to talk about how attractive he found them, using various scales and always coming up with a little nickname that he used every time we saw the character. He led Megan on, but claimed that he was in love with Annie. Whenever Ryan Dean talked to Joey, he always brought up the fact that Joey was gay, saying things like 'in a non-gay way' or 'that's the gayest thing I've ever done' when Joey was around or just with his friends. It bothers me to no end that people, especially the male population, continue to be so insecure about their sexuality that they always have to clarify what they're doing. In summary, Ryan Dean West was a living, breathing contradiction, which is exactly what saved him for me. He was a true teenager, really unsure of what he was doing and what had consequences. His intentions were good, but he could never keep up with a solid plight to approach executing them in the best way possible. I really enjoyed the fact that Andrew Smith hadn't chosen an indie approach to his character by making them a well versed, philosophical being, but instead making Ryan Dean someone who had no idea what was going on with him, since that rang the most true for me. The only moment that I remember entirely liking him was during the dance, just because he'd realized who he'd let himself become and tried his best to correct all of his ways. I actually shipped him with Joey and hoped that they would have a moment during the iPod scene. After having finished the book, I really wonder even more now if Joey would have died if that had happened.
- Joey: I cannot stand it one second longer, so we need to talk about Joey. Joey was just this moral compass kind of character, he was such a GOOD person at heart, despite being in O-Hall and all the other negativity surrounding him. During the entire book, he was the one who was always telling Ryan Dean to get his act together and stop being the little brat he kept acting like. I absolutely loved Joey, he understood exactly what came along with coming out, but he didn't let that stop him for even one second from being exactly who he knew he was. Joey was just a lovable character during the whole book, but my favorite scene with him was probably during the Screaming Ned scene, just because he only saw the good in Ned. He drove around town and got stuck in a creek out of the pure goodness of his heart at 3am to drive an old man home. The reason, at least the reason that I see, that Ryan Dean liked Joey so much is because Joey was so fully accepting of Ryan Dean, even though he was only 14 and kind of a jerk. Joey treated him exactly how he treated everyone, which was one of my favorite things about him. I honestly thought that he was going to end up with Ryan Dean by the end of the book, especially at that last scene when he just had this look in his eyes while they were talking. I'm so upset that he died, since he was the only character that I truly liked in the story.
- Annie: Annie was...boring. I really didn't think too much of her. She was smart, artistic, athletic and that was really all there was to her character. She always kept telling herself that she couldn't like Ryan Dean, but I really didn't feel too much anticipation towards it. I was honestly kind of bored with Annie, which is possibly because Ryan Dean idolized her, so there really were no faults to see. There weren't any particular moments when I had very strong feelings of like or dislike towards her, just a constant blah type feeling.
- Overall Thoughts: So I really did enjoy reading Winger, despite my problems with some characters. I was very entertained and will definitely be reading Stand Off once I get home. I'm a bit confused because everyone did say that Winger ended on a cliff-hanger, but there really isn't too much that seems like I need a dire answer to. Honestly the book could've survived as a stand-alone with an abrupt ending. I'm not sure how much I'll enjoy the second book, especially since there will be a lack of Joey, but I'm still going to give it a try. I loved the little cartoons and graphs in there, but I loved the hardcover design even more, with the actual picture on the front, then a full watercolor marker sketch mirrored. I had a lot of fun with this, since it was my first Andrew Smith book and I hope to pick up his other books soon.
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