Winger by Andrew Smith (Kellee’s Review)
Author: Andrew Smith
Published May 14th, 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Goodreads Summary: Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. 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.
My Review: Andrew Smith sure knows how to write a teenage boy’s voice. He gets inside of adolescent male’s mind, and puts it all on paper for us. (It probably has something to do with teaching high school.) Ryan Dean’s voice and his story are so authentic. This book will make you cringe, laugh out loud, shake your head, and cry. I am also so impressed with all of the themes that are dealt with in this book without ever feeling over done. These themes include bullying, absent parents, peer pressure, identity, sexuality, prejudice, and friendship. In addition, Smith builds his characters, setting, and plot seamlessly. You fall in love with all of the characters, main and secondary. Even the antagonist. The setting itself is a character. And finally the plot arc was perfectly done, and was so unpredictable all the way to the end.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: First and foremost, this book needs to read by teens. However that happens, it is the right thing. The easiest way would be to get it into libraries and classrooms. There are also parts of the book that could definitely be pulled out to be used in the classroom in may different ways. On that junps to mind right away is using Ryan Dean’s comics as mentor texts for writing comics to write narratives of everyday events. Ricki also has some great ideas for Winger in the classroom in her review.
Discussion Questions: What kind of social challenges does Ryan Dean have to overcome since he is 14 but a junior?; Were you able to predict the end of the book?; What are some traits about Ryan Dean that made him easy to connect to?; How does Opportunity Hall and the rest of the school become a character in Winger?
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