Fourteen years old and the smartest kid in his boarding school for rich kids, Ryan Dean West enters our world hanging three inches above the toilet water in the boys room of Opportunity Hall. O-Hall is where the discipline cases go and Ryan Dean is one of them. But he's in over his head having been assigned to a room with Chas Becker, total goon who is three years older and has a vocabulary of about ten words all of them obscene.
Ryan Dean is finding his way through love, anger, and the world of teenage boys in a private school. He's in love with Annie Altman and wants desperately to make her see him as more than a little boy. At the same time he's trying to hold his own against his roommate and his roommate's girlfriend and one of his own friends, JP who also thinks Annie is pretty hot.
What kinds of challenges do teenage boys face? How much confidence do they feel as they find their way? How much of their time is spent thinking about sex and their God given tools for the job?
Sorting out sexuality can be tough at any age. Real friends can come out of strange circumstances. Being a male teenager can get pretty complex and confusing.
The authenticity of the voice in this story is compelling. It feels as though you're really reading some guy's personal journal...wandering through his most personal stuff and you care....you care about a lot of the people in his world.
Can the boy get the girl or vice versa? Is there room for honest feelings in relationships between guys? Told in the language of guys this story is a first rate journey into the land of guy.
9781442444928 439 pages Ages 14 and up (language; violence; sexuality)
Recommended by: Barb
"How many friends have I really got?
You can count them on one hand.
How many friends have I really got?
"How many friends have I really got?
That love me, that want me, that'll take me as I am?"
-- Pete Townshend (1975)
"'You know, nothing ever goes back exactly the way it was. Things just
expand and contract. Like the universe, like breathing. But you'll never fill
your lungs up with the same air twice. Sometimes, it would be cool if you
could pause and rewind and do over. But I think anyone would get tired of
that after one or two times.'"
-- Fly half and team captain, Joey Cosentino
"But, through everything, I think what strikes me most is how a guy can be
going along, sailing on a particular course (even if it sucks), and he'll
think everything is so steady and predictable, and then BAM! someone steps
on his balls, or he gets into an uncontrollable fistfight with one of his
"Or even worse things than that.
"And you can't see around corners, so you just have to deal with it and
try to stay afloat.
-- Winger and narrator Ryan Dean West
According to Wikipedia, many different types of football were played
throughout Britain between 1400 and 1800. Running with the ball became common in
the 1830s at Britain's Rugby School, and Rugby School football became
popular throughout the UK in the 1850s and 1860s. Then, in the 1880s, Yale
coach Walter Camp devised rules that would lead to the evolution of American
football as a game very different than rugby.
I honestly just had to do a search in order to learn that the University
of Connecticut, where I did my undergrad many years ago, does actually have
a rugby club that has been around since the early seventies. (In fact,
there are now both men's and women's rugby clubs there.) Another search
revealed that San Jose State University -- where I teach -- has similarly had a
rugby club that also goes back to the early seventies. I had no idea.
I've learned a lot about rugby by reading Andrew Smith's WINGER. But my
lessons in rugby football have been totally eclipsed by the ridiculous amount
of time I spent doubled over, laughing, as I tried to read this
oft-heartbreaking coming-of-age tale about a small, brainy, fourteen year-old rugby
player who is a junior at Pine Mountain Academy, a fancy boarding school in
the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. In fact, Chapter 15 of WINGER is likely
one of the top ten funniest book chapters I have read in my entire life, and
it leads to some running plot lines that kept halting my reading progress
-- chapter after chapter -- amidst gales of laughter.
Despite his academic prowess, fourteen year-old rugby winger Ryan Dean
West is spending his junior year living in the austere confines and enhanced
regulations of Opportunity Hall (O-Hall) with the school's troublemakers
(mostly in trouble for fighting), rather than in the regular boy's dorm suite
with his friends and former roomies JP and Seanie. This, because he was
caught last year stealing and hacking a teacher's cell phone in order to call
his best friend and dream girl Annie Altman. (It was not his first run-in
with trouble. His rich, Boston-based parents initially sent him off to Pine
Mountain Academy two years earlier, after he was arrested for breaking intoand trying to drive a T train.)
But Ryan Dean has vowed to himself and to his BFF Annie that this year is
going to be different. And it sure as heck is. Different than anything I've
Through it all, the character who stands out in WINGER is rugby team
captain Joey Cosentino, who apparently is one of the boys who has found his way
into O-Hall because of his fists. But Joey has good reason for having to
fight: the crap he repeatedly has to endure for being openly gay.
Joey Cosentino is the guy who repeatedly tells Ryan Dean the truth about
the winger's questionable behavior; who repeatedly put his own body on the
line to protect Ryan Dean; who is the kind of friend that most of us can
only dream of having. And it is, thanks to Joey Cosentino, that Ryan Dean West
does, in fact, get his act together during the opening months of this
Profane and profound, you will be hearing a LOT more about WINGER in the
coming months. It's one of those books.
Ages 12 and up 448 pages 978-1442444928
Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA
Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com_
Winger is a top-notch YA read that will resonate with readers long after they have finished it. It is that rare book that speaks to all teens, male and female. Who doesn't love an underdog? And an underdog like Ryan Dean West speaks to the humanity in all of us.
Ryan Dean West is a scrawny 14 year old junior, younger than others in his class, but he's scrappy and fierce both on and off the rugby field at Pine Mountain. He's rooming with Chas--a real zero and the typical "meathead" jock-- in O-Hall (Opportunity Hall); O-Hall is the place the "really bad kids" are sent to on campus. Ryan Dean is sent there for hacking a cell phone account. Ryan Dean knows he has to watch his back in O-Hall and around Chas in order to stay alive.
Ryan Dean is clever and quick. He tells readers that at Pine Mountain, kids can't have cell phones or electronics. Ryan Dean says, "...the kids here actually talk to each other. And they write notes, too. I know these are both ridiculously primitive human behaviors, but what else can you do when your school forces you to live like the xxxx-ing Donner party?"( xxxx-expletive)
Coach McAuliffe, the rugby coach, is from England and he is short (like Ryan Dean) and a former winger. Ryan Dean describes his coaching style, coach "...could talk the most civilized-sounding xxxx you would ever hear, and he could cuss you out with the most vicious obscenities and it would sound like he was reading from Shakespeare."
Ryan Dean describes the O-house chaparones Mr. Farrow and Mrs. Singer as "Satan's minions." When Ryan Dean isn't slamming into people on the rugby field, he's hoping to get Annie Altman, his best friend, to think of him in a romantic way. Friendships are tested when Ryan Dean strays, but good friend and rugby teammate Joey tries to keep him on track.
Winger is a terrific YA novel that will entertain and amuse readers, but it will also force them to face bullying, teenage cruelty and angst, anxiety, depression, fear, fitting in, and friendship. Be prepared to laugh and cry with Ryan Dean.
The ending is unexpected and traumatic; don't cheat and read the ending first. Get to know Ryan Dean. Live in his world, in his heart and in his head. You'll be a better person for it.
If you know any reluctant reader, this is THE book for him/her. Boys will empathize with Ryan Dean and girls will love him.
Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Language, mature situations, drinking, gambling, bad prep school behavior.
Recommended by: Pamela Thompson, Librarian, Texas USA