Why I Checked It Out: I read “Winger” by Andrew Smith because my book club was reading it and it has a pretty great cover.
What It’s About: Two years younger than his classmates at a prestigious boarding school, fourteen-year-old Ryan Dean West grapples with living in the dorm for troublemakers, falling for his female best friend who thinks of him as just a kid, and playing wing on the Varsity rugby team with some of his frightening new dorm-mates.
Why I Liked It: This book is funny. I don’t mean mildly amusing. I mean, from start to almost the end, it is laugh-out-loud entertainment. Ryan Dean is a smart, quirky, talented guy trying to navigate a world where all his friends and teammates are years older than him. His voice is painfully fourteen and realistic, at times immature, whiny and obsessed with girls. I loved reading and learning about rugby, because it is a sport that is tough to follow if you don’t know the rules. I even ended up watching some videos online!
What I Didn’t Like: This book has a controversial ending that is an avalanche of awful that completely does not match the rest of the book. In discussing this book with other people, many liked the abrupt ending and felt it was true to real life: loss can come unexpectedly. Which is true. But if you’re going to deal with it in a book, you need to do better than wrap it up neatly in the last 20 pages. I feel like the author created a situation for cheap, emotional manipulation.
Who Will Like It: All being said and done, I would still recommend this book to people. I feel like 99.5% of the book is fun and enjoyable. And some readers may disagree with my assessment of the last little bit, so if you like sports and the inner workings of teenage boy brains, give Winger a try.