Winger by Andrew Smith made me laugh out loud and broke my heart.
Ryan Dean is an awkward 14-year-old boy who is smart enough to have skipped two grades. When he returns for his Junior year at a boarding school in the Pacific Northwest, he’ll be staying in the troublemakers dorm with limited privileges, and a year of hijinks and heartache ensue.
Ryan Dean knows he’s a bit uncool and nerdy and awkward, but it only adds to his charm. Even though he gets in trouble and makes bad decisions, he’s at his core a good friend and good person. Though his internal monologue is littered with profanity, he tries to limit the use of cuss words in his speech. Though he’s not above tricking a guy into drinking what is definitely not lemon-lime Gatorade, he’ll defend his friends in a fight even if it means he gets beat up. At times, I cringed at his thoughts, but in other moments, I found myself smiling ear-t0-ear at how endearing he was.
The chapters are peppered with Ryan Dean’s hand drawn comics that are utterly adorable as well as charts and perhaps Ryan Dean’s favorite communication tool, the Venn diagram.
This is a leisurely paced and character-driven novel; while I was entertained throughout, I did find myself wondering what the main conflict was and what the “point” of the story would be. My only complaint about the novel would be that the climax comes too late and not enough time is spent on resolution. I went from laughing at the crude jokes about bodily functions and body parts, to crying when the realization of what had happened hit me.