Author: Andrew Smith
Published: May 14th, 2013 by Simon and 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.
Review: With every page I turned, I fell more in love with this book. I found elements of this text to be reminiscent of Looking for Alaska by John Green, another wonderfully compelling work. Andrew Smith does a beautiful job unraveling the plot of this story. I found it to be incredibly unpredictable—all of my predictions, in fact, were incorrect. The book surprised me in wonderful ways. The characterization and setting shine brightly. I felt as if I was in the boarding school right with the characters, and they were my friends just as much as they were Ryan Dean’s friends. I couldn’t stop reading by the end of the book, and I think readers will equally be hooked to this coming-of-age tale.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This text would fit in well with many units—particularly those of bullying, heroism, or homophobia. I could also see it matching well with Looking for Alaska, and readers might draw parallels between the two texts.
Discussion Questions: How does Andrew Smith build character? How does this characterization bolster elements of the plot?; What does the book teach us about friendship? About judging people?; Who is the hero of this story?; How does the sport of rugby play a role in the plot, characterization, and theme of this text?
We Flagged: “And then it’s always that one word that makes you so different and puts you outside the overlap of everyone else; and that word is so fucking big and loud, it’s the only thing anyone ever hears when your name is spoken.
And whenever that happens to us, all the other words that make us the same disappear in its shadow.”
Read This If You Loved: Looking for Alaska by John Green, Deadline by Chris Crutcher, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson