Friday, 15 August 2014
Review: Winger by Andrew Smith
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: June 4th, 2014
Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old boy 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 humour, 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.
Winger is one of those books that everyone is raving about. Reviews have been really good, people are talking about it and a good amount of hype is present. So I read it in the hopes that I would feel the same, but unfortunately I didn't. I didn't love it, didn't hate it, I'm just kind of comfortably resting in the middle. While written well, I found it too slow and wasn't even surprised by the ending. I saw it coming a mile off, which in itself is unusual for me.
This is the first book of Andrew Smith's that I've read, and I have Grasshopper Jungle sat waiting. He's a good writer - I can see why everyone says that - but for me Winger fell a little flat. It's also really long, like Fangirl long, though its short chapters helped speed things along. I did struggle to get into it at first, probably for the first half of book, but then something clicked and I started enjoying it more. I had to finish it, of course, but it's not one I'm clamouring to talk about.
Winger is set at Pine Mountain boarding school where fourteen-year-old Ryan Dean West attends. He's a rugby player, in love with his best friend Annie and is possibly the most intelligent fourteen-year-old I've ever read about. It's really just about his life there, growing up and finding out what people and friends are like. Nothing much happens, truth be told, and it very much reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye (which I also didn't like). Like I said earlier, even the ending didn't leave me surprised or heartbroken, which I think was the point of it. I know a lot of readers felt differently, so maybe I just spotted the foreboding clues too early.
One part of Winger that I really like is the inclusion of comic strips and drawings. It adds to Ryan Dean's narration and makes it more personal, so his thoughts are literally on the page. It's a nice addition to the novel, and it does make it stand out more than it otherwise would. I personally found Ryan Dean to be irritating and unrealistic, though I loved his comic strips and his diagrams. Go figure.
I usually love coming of age stories set at boarding schools, but Winger just didn't do it for me. It's not a good start when a reader doesn't gel with the main character, and I think that's my problem here. I did like the humour in the novel though, as well as some of Ryan Dean's friends and the serious turn the story takes. Overall, though, I expected more and am disappointed that I didn't enjoy it as much as everyone else. As always, do read it and decide for yourself, and I hope you like it more than I did!