Monday, July 14, 2014

{Book Review} Winger #1: Andrew Smith

Rating: 7/10
Series: Winger #1
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult, Fiction,
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Page Count: 440
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: 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.

*Personally, I think that it's best to go into Winger without knowing ANYTHING about it. I'm not trying to deter you from reading my review, but I think it is so good that I went into it without any expectations. Nevertheless, you can gain some information as in how you should read it, and what to look out for with my review*

The first thing I would like to point out is that the 3 star rating I gave Winger does not, by any means, mean that I disliked the book, think it was poorly written, that the main characters seemed unrealistic, or any of the normal critiques I would give a normal book that I give a three star rating to. Before I get into the review itself, I would like to establish that there are TWO reasons and two reasons only that I gave this book a total of three stars. 

The first was that I read the first half of it on the Saturday before I left for camp, then finished it on Thursday. What I have learned -as this is my 2nd Andrew Smith novel- is that you have GOT TO read these books in a maximum of four sittings. Andrew Smith does so much world building and plot development -even if it is still the world that we know- that you have to be able to take it all in and absorb big chunks of it. Because of that, over the course of Monday-Thursday, I was convinced that the pacing of Winger slowed down. Yet I am 99.9% certain that if I had read Winger in - let's say three sittings, that I wouldn't have thought that. My sporadic reading, which I couldn't help (everybody who has ever been away from their normal environment/scheduled -such as at camp- can tell you that you are non-stop busy) is what took off 1 1/2 stars. Winger still could have been salvageable as a 4 star book IF and only IF it weren't for my second reason.

The other reason I disliked Winger was the romance, or (if anybody who has read the book will understand my reference) Ryan Dean's inexplicable attraction to generally every other female on planet earth - except for Mrs. Singer. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but what I will say is that Ryan Dean is in love -the 14 year old version- with multiple people. Yet, there is that one girl who he has been fighting for, in his own twisted way (without things being creepy), and the girl you are routing him to be with the ENTIRE book. What I did not like, and what took away the rest of that half star was the execution of their relationship. I know if I try to describe it, you will either have zero idea of what I'm talking about, or will be spoiled. I felt that the speed of their relationship, the intensity, and progression was a little, well, off.

Now that I'm done telling you why I gave Winger 3 stars, NOT why I disliked it, I need to gush to you all the reasons I fell in love with it. Let's face it, Andrew Smith books are weird, crazy, insane, each and every adjective in between. Grasshopper Jungle was.... well Grasshopper Jungle. You couldn't compare it to anything else. You couldn't try to define it. Grasshopper Jungle pushed EVERYTHING aside into a class of its own. While I myself did not review the book --mostly because of the level of insanity it reached, my good friend Mal @ LilaJune's Book Saloon did, and her review pretty much sums all my feelings up. Winger on the other hand was a lot more laid back, yet still retained the same "Oh My God What Am I Reading?" quality. I intend to read as many Andrew Smith books as I can after the two, but I will have to admit that Winger was definitely the better of the two.

The identical back cover 
Style 10/10: I know I usually put "Writing Style" as a category, but Winger is a multi-media book, and I loved just everything about its style - caricatures, voice, charts, humor. What I just need to say is that Ryan Dean West's voice is something else. It is so real, true, and relatable to the teenage condition (instead of human condition), almost as Andrew Smith was going through everything RDW was, which if how it should be. Yet he is SO much his own, unique person, while still having all the worries and insecurities of an adolescent male such as shaving, defending his masculinity, his appeal to girls, how good he is at rugby, and having sex for the first time. Another unarguable point about his character is how laugh out loud hilarious he can be. Ryan Dean West is an artistic comic drawer, and the book is FILLED with diagrams, charts, caricatures, doodles, and other things that aid the story telling and humor.

Ending: My enjoyment, reaction, and attachment to the characters -which is important for the end of the novel- was effected by my sporadic reading. I knew and loved the characters of Winger, but not as much as I could have. Most of the BookTubers and Bloggers who I have watched/read reviews of have said that Winger gave them major book hangovers. There is a humongous WTF ending, which is what incited all the book hangovers. Something major happens to certain characters, and you will be stunned when you come to it - as in rereading the paragraph over and over to soak up what happens. 
Continuation 80%: Today, I looked it up on Goodreads, and there is a sequel called Stand-Off which is expected to come out on the 14th of January in 2015 and I am freaking PUMPED. There isn't any cover or much information, but I am psyched because of the synopsis. "Stand-Off will focus on Ryan Dean's senior year, in which he becomes captain of the rugby team." Yet, I am also wary because I will have such high expectations going into it, and am not entirely sure that Ryan Dean's life should be tampered with anymore. Nonetheless, even if I try not to read it, I am almost certain that I won't be able to resist the temptation.

Conclusion: Winger is one of the funniest, most unique, and relatable contemporary novels I have read. There is a perfect balance of out there-ness, and a voice that rings so clearly for all teenagers.

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