winger by andrew smith

title & author: winger by andrew smith
series: winger #1
published by simon & schuster on may 14th, 2013
genres: contemporary, coming of age, lgbtq
pages: 440
format: kindle edition

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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.

“joey told me nothing ever goes back exactly the way it was, that things expand and contract- like breathing, but you could never fill your lungs up with the same air twice.”

when i started winger, i was expecting brash boys and lots of cursing, fighting, yelling, and basically just dudes being dudes (i also, for some reason, thought he was going to be british — maybe it’s the cover, maybe i don’t read blurbs well enough, who knows, i just know what i expected,) and that’s more or less what i got. but it wasn’t really exactly what i got. and i remember thinking that after the initial 10%, the story was kind of dragging and ryan dean was a little more immature than i liked my main characters, and i was like “wow is everyone sure this isn’t juvenile fiction?” given ryan dean’s age and the amount of times he talked about girls, his dick, his balls, and a ton of other childish/boyhood things.

but this is one of those books that i’m glad i stuck with. i’m glad i pushed myself through that boring 30% because then it just kind of took off. being that he was younger than everyone in his year by a landslide, ryan dean always felt like a bit of a fish out of water, like he had to prove to his friends and even complete strangers that being so tiny and so much younger didn’t make him any less of a man. all at once, he felt like he was losing his friends, the girl he was in love with, and the very essence of who he’d always thought he was all in one fell swoop. everyone hated him, or at least he felt like they did — he was convinced that even his teachers had it out for him, in a funny, endearing, adorable sort of way. he started to change from his childish ways, slowly but surely, by fostering a relationship with joey consentino, the towheaded and aggressive captain of his rugby team that everyone is kinda weird around since he’s gay, and developing an even deeper one with annie, his best friend and the girl he’s madly in love with. he did things that made me tut with a sort of maternal disappointment and he did other things that made me feel proud of him, like he was my little brother or something. it was weird, how much i loved ryan dean west in spite of his childish, selfish ways.

this book was incredibly based on character and relationship development, and it was the most realistic coming of age story i’ve read to date. i thought that all of the five star reviews might be from hype or bias but it absolutely was not. if you like books about people who transcend their labels and what’s expected of them, read this book. just know that you’ll probably have your heart stolen and broken like eight thousand times from start to finish.

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