REVIEW: Winger by Andrew Smith

 Andrew Smith


DATE PUBLISHED: January 6, 2015

RATING: 4 out of 5

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads): Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids in the Pacific Northwest. 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.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.


Truth time! The first time I saw this book, I thought this was Neil Patrick Harris’ autobiography. Don’t tell me you missed it! The guy on the cover looks like him.


Writing Style

Winger, in general, is wittily written. Andrew Smith wrote with pure eloquence on teen speak. His choice of words are definitely what you might notice to come out of a typical adolescent’s mouth. I’m not entirely certain for some of the debauched expressions strewn on a few pages if it’s normal for a typical teenager to speak such obscenities. (Should I admit the minuscule age gap between me and them leaves me unaware of such facts?). I did enjoy the writing despite such. But if you’re a conservative parent imbibing good principles to your offspring, I say think twice.

One of the highlights of Smith’s writing for me is his long-descriptive-and-that-which-is-tinged-with-a-habit-of-using-excessive-hyphens manner of describing stuff. For example:

  • black-tar-heroin-cakes-or-whatever-the-fuck-you-call-them-Band-Aided-to-my-ballsack-smuggler
  • Ryan Dean Never-Been-Kissed-by-Anyone-Who-Wasn’t-Alive-When-Sputnik-Got-Launched West 

I’m betting this man is a linguist in his other life.


The characters on this story represent diverse icons in a high school setting. Culturally speaking, I am familiar on such representations only because of American films. I went to a school with nerds, and bullies, and bullied, and hot men and women, and jocks, and whatnot but the distinction between such is not as paraded as what I see on movies.

Let’s begin with the main character. Ryan Dean West, “Winger” to his rugby teammates, was a subject of bullying and a victim of infatuation to his best friend. I didn’t like but I didn’t hate either the transition of his character from being the wimpy bullied-2-years-younger-than-the-rest-of-the-kids kid to a person who didn’t give a damn to his tormentors. This doesn’t mirror the daily story of a high school survivor of browbeating which for me is a good thing. This young man had subtly and “unplannedly” beaten his offenders. It’s a nice development for a character but barely eventful. However, to read from a perspective of a boy in a YA contemporary setting is welcoming. We don’t always get that. I’d like to commend the author for not stepping into a pretentious pursuit of understanding women or any other character out of his knowledge and simply resorted to a voice that he’s comfortable using.

Totally incoherent but I have to insert this anyway, Ryan Dean is extremely perverted and I mean it to be in the upper endmost side of perversion spectrum that’s DISTURBING. Getting into a hanky-panky with two girls (and a school nurse) at such a juvenile age – NOT. COOL.

The other characters – Annie, Megan, and Chas – were predictably products of stereotyping. Nothing extraordinary about them, flat even, unless you consider smoking hot extraordinary. That came out unsurprisingly. It’s helpful if you won’t keep your expectations to a maximum when reading books like this.

I like to highlight Joey’s character. He is Ryan Dean’s friend in O-Hall. Joey’s a cool homosexual. How he’s portrayed in the story as the captain of the rugby team and one of the poker gang is diverse. We don’t get to see straight guys hanging around with homosexuals in every day life but it feels refreshing and liberating for it to be seen in fiction as something normal.


First, allow me to say that the cover is deceitful. I don’t know about you but I was expecting some serious browbeating and torturing here. On the first few chapters, we got that at least. The next ones though were dedicated to feeding Ryan Dean’s lustful expeditions and desire to outgrow being the baby of his batch. This is American Pie for the 90’s kids and I Love You, Beth Cooper for those born later.

As I already hinted above, this is a story of an adolescent barely of legal age who went on a series of having dirty weekends with a girl while on the process of wooing another. For a fourteen-year old, I think this matter is too much and the resolving phase was poorly executed. The first 90% of the book was allocated for Ryan Dean’s horny guts – that even the school nurse wasn’t spared – with his buddy, Joey, constantly being his Jimney Cricket. Why is his being so immoral prolonged?! The point was nowhere to be found. I’m not forgetting that the one being grilled on his seat is a rich, spoiled, fourteen-year old kid with outright immaturity. Change in attitude will never be a miraculous overnight case. It’s just that the resolution came at a point too late it was hastily squeezed in like “Oops! Last 3o pages but I’m still the horny Ryan Dean. Let’s do this randomness now!”

Speaking of randomness, that ending was the most random of all randomness. I don’t care how many times I said the word random but it’s just so random I feel like throwing away the book in whatever random way possible. I won’t go into details much and spill some spoilers in case you’re planning to read it. It’s totally my (and I’m sure everybody else’s) pet peeve to see a so-called plot twist tied in the end just to get the readers grip on their seats. I did grip my chest when I witnessed it and  found myself scratching my head in confusion asking where on earth did it come from afterwards.

To be fair though, the story was good sufficient to make me read it in just a few sitting. It tightened me to my spot laughing, eagerly awaiting what will come up next. It wasn’t generally unpleasant. This is the kind of book where you get transported in the story fast and you can’t escape it until it’s over but moments after the euphoria, you realize there were several loopholes you failed to notice while readingIf truth be told, I enjoyed the story still. The easy writing and the funny cartoons helped a lot actually.


I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good laugh, a light read, and a not-so-fluffy-but-a-little-dirty kind of romance among adolescents. I will read the second book, Stand-Off, sometime soon.

Let’s connect: TwitterGoodreadsPinterestInstagram Email


  1. I’m glad you enjoyed this book! It’s one of my favourites! When they first announced a sequel, I was a little skeptical and questioned if a sequel was even needed. Turns out I loved it even more! You should try and get your hands on Stand-Off as soon as you can! 🙂


    • Really?? I thought Winger wrapped up pretty well but wow! I hope there’s an explanation there on why “that” has to happen to Joey! I like how in Stand Off’s cover, Ryan Dean sort of become a cooler dude. Ahh I’m excited! Thanks Maria! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hahhahaaha, you know what? I had the SAME reaction as you did when I first saw the cover of that book. The guy really looks like Neil Patrick Harris, thats crazy!!
    Thank you for this great review! I have this book on my TBR for a while now, and I’m still hesitating about whether I should read it, or not. Right now, it’s going more towards I want to read that book :p


    • Good to know I’m not the only one on the boat!! I thought it’s really NPH’s biography until I spot his actual book which is way thicker than this. Haha!
      I’m glad you want to try this! The overall theme is a bit shallow but it’s a great book to read if you’re up for some funny, relaxing read 😀

      Liked by 1 person

Feel free to tell me what you think :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s