This is a spoiler-free review!
One word: Speechless.
That’s how Winger by Andrew Smith left me feeling last week when I finally reached the end.
The story starts out innocently enough: Ryan Dean West is a 14 year old junior at a boarding school for rich kids, and he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie. Unfortunately, Annie is two years older than Ryan Dean, and she can’t help but see him as a little boy. Despite the ups and downs that life seems to throw his way, Ryan Dean faces them with wit, humour, and pure determination.
Little did I know, however, that while I was laughing away at Ryan Dean’s crazy antics and rolling my eyes over his sex-obsessed thoughts, the author was setting me up for complete and utter heartbreak. Looking back on the book, the clues were all there. Andrew Smith does a fantastic job at using thinly veiled foreshadowing to hint at something simmering beneath the plot. It still felt like my face had hit a brick wall at the end.
Apparently I’m not the only person to feel this way. After reading dozens of reviews online about the book, it’s clear that people are very divided about how they feel about the end of Winger. Some readers love it. Others think the ending happens too quickly. And many are in such shock that they don’t know what to think at all. Without spoiling what really happens, I will say this: Yes, the ending is brief and things could have been wrapped up more neatly, but I think the shocking climax and quick end are a good thing. Rather than having Andrew Smith tell us how we should feel as readers, we are left to process the events for ourselves.
Controversial ending aside, Winger is a fabulous book, and has one of the most realistic portrayals of a teen boy that I have ever seen! Ryan Dean is crass, rakish, and rebellious. His thoughts are constantly focused on girls, rugby, girls, food, and of course… more girls. Reading his narration actually made me feel like I was stuck in the head of a 14 year-old-boy (or at least what I imagine a 14 year-old-boy’s thought process would be like). Although I didn’t always like him, Ryan Dean was authentic, and I couldn’t help but love him in the end.
To sum it all up, I loved this book. I really really loved it. Winger is definitely a book that you should add to your to-read list if you haven’t already done so. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll shake your fists in anger, and ultimately be left feeling like you’ve been slapped in the face, but Winger will leave a lasting impression that you won’t soon forget.