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Winger
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*Starred Review* After he opened a vein in YA lit with The Marbury Lens (2010) and then went completely nutso in Passenger (2012), about the only thing that Smith could do to surprise would be a hornball boarding-school romantic romp. Surprise! Well, sort of. At 14, Ryan Dean West is a couple years younger (and scrawnier) than the rest of the juniors at Pine Mountain. He is a plucky kid—despite a tendency to punctuate his every thought with “I am such a loser”—who stars in the rugby team due to his speed and tenacity. The rail ties of his single-track mind, though, are his exploits (or lack thereof) with the opposite sex, particularly his best friend Annie, who thinks he is “adorable.” In short, Ryan Dean is a slightly pervy but likeable teen. He rates the hotness of every female in sight but also drops surprising bombs of personal depth on a friend’s homosexuality, the poisonous rivalries that can ruin friendships, and his own highly unstable mix of insecurity and evolving self-confidence. Much of the story seems preoccupied with the base-level joys and torments of being a teenager, content to float along with occasional bursts of levity from some nonessential but fun minicomics by Bosma. But at its heart, it is more in line with Dead Poets Society, and by the end this deceptively lightweight novel packs an unexpectedly ferocious punch. Grades 9-12. --Ian Chipman

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Reviews

* "[A] brutally honest coming-of-age novel...Like puberty itself, this tale is alternately hilarious and painful, awkward and enlightening...an excellent, challenging read." * "Smart, wickedly funny...In a magnificently frenetic first-person narration that includes clever short comics, charts and diagrams...Smith deftly builds characters--readers will suddenly realize they've effortlessly fallen in love with them--and he laces meaning and poignantly real dialogue into uproariously funny scatological and hormonally charged humor, somehow creating a balance between the two that seems to intensify both extremes. Bawdily comic but ultimately devastating, this is unforgettable." * "This deceptively lightweight novel packs an unexpectedly ferocious punch." "Amusing and touching in a "Looking for Alaska," meets Rabelais meets "Friday Night Lights" kind of way." ""Winger "broke my heart, like any great book should. Andrew Smith is a brave and talented storyteller who blows me away every time. Readers will love Ryan Dean West. This book is powerful, sweet and heart-wrenching."--A. S. King, Printz Honor-winning author of Please Excuse Vera Dietz ""Winger" is one of the most honest and beautifully raw novels I've read in a long time. Ryan Dean is a true original."--Matt de la Pena, author of Mexican WhiteBoy and We Were Here I am seriously moved beyond words after finishing this beautiful, hilarious, and heart-exploding book. Reading Winger" is like running down a steep hill--you should probably slow down, but it feels too good to stop. Andrew Smith has written a wildly original, hilarious, and heartbreaking ode to teenage confusion and frustration. You'll devour it and then go back for more."--John Corey Whaley, author of the Printz and Morris winning Where Things Come Back" "I am seriously moved beyond words after finishing this beautiful, hilarious, and heart-exploding book. Reading Winger is like running down a steep hill--you should probably slow down, but it feels too good to stop. Andrew Smith has written a wildly original, hilarious, and heartbreaking ode to teenage confusion and frustration. You'll devour it and then go back for more."--John Corey Whaley, author of the Printz and Morris winning Where Things Come Back "Winger is one of the most honest and beautifully raw novels I've read in a long time. Ryan Dean is a true original."--Matt de la Pena, author of Mexican WhiteBoy and We Were Here "Winger broke my heart, like any great book should. Andrew Smith is a brave and talented storyteller who blows me away every time. Readers will love Ryan Dean West. This book is powerful, sweet and heart-wrenching."--A. S. King, Printz Honor-winning author of Please Excuse Vera Dietz

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