Friday, November 1, 2013

Review: Winger

By Andrew Smith
Published 2013 by Simon & Schuster

Ryan Dean West is one of the biggest misfits at his school - a sex-obsessed 14-year-old junior who's in love with his best friend and living in the dorm for troublemakers. Oh, and he plays rugby, too (that's pretty important). Can Ryan man up and make a move on Annie? And what does this year's rugby season have in store for him?

This book was getting rave reviews before and immediately after its release. I had requested an e-galley and was happy to be approved. Unfortunately, I only managed to read about half of the book before my copy expired, so I had to wait for my library to get a copy before I could finish it. I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book.

On the one hand, this book has an incredibly realistic voice. Ryan Dean sounds exactly like a 14-year-old boy. Yes, he's obsessed with sex. He's also obsessed with rugby. He struggles with doing the right thing and doing the popular thing. He has a bit of a short temper. He lacks a lot of self-confidence. He just feels so authentic. And the rest of the characters feel pretty authentic, too. This book is smart and funny and there is a reason why pretty much every review of this book mentions a certain other YA author by name.

And, on that same hand, the twist that comes near the end was completely unexpected and surprising and heart wrenching and basically destroyed me. It works so, so well here because it's just like life - it sucker-punches you right out of the blue and changes your entire life. It destroyed me all the more because it felt so realistic.

But, on the other hand, the twist is jarring - here, you've been reading this book for over 400 pages and you think you're reading one kind of book but it turns out it's not really that book at all. I can imagine this being an uncomfortable change for some readers.

Additionally, though I enjoy that Ryan's voice is so realistic, I felt that sometimes he was trying a bit too hard to be funny or shocking. It got tiresome for me in a book this long. And, on that note, I don't think the book needed to be this long. A lot of what happened before the big twist began to feel pretty repetitive.

So, the book is good and emotional, but I still had some issues. I'd be interested to see if it's being discussed in award circles and whether there are other criticisms of it.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

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