Winger by Andrew Smith

Ryan Dean, or Winger as he is better known, is just a kid. That's what everyone tells him. He skipped two grades, and ended up at a prestigious boarding school for rich kids. Naturally, he's younger than every other kid in his grade, and tragically younger than his best friend - and object of affection - Annie, who thinks of him as (you guessed it) just a kid.

It helps his rep a little that he's on the Varsity Rugby team, and that he's dorming in the punishment dorm (for hacking a cell phone to wish Annie "Happy Birthday!"). He still doesn't cuss (well, not out loud). He's afraid his new roommate, Chas, will kill him by the end of the semester (there are a lot of ways that one could go). He is also pretty sure the resident girls' counselor is a witch who has it in for him. Sophomore year is shaping up great!

He has one really great thing going for him: he has a great friend in Joey. He's the gay kid on the rugby team, but he's not like trying to make a big thing about it. What's the big deal anyway? Joey is cool, and you stick up for your teammates. Things are actually looking up between he and Annie, and something weird is going on between Ryan Dean and Chas's girlfriend...which can only end in tears and fists and...other bad things.

Why is it so hard to be 14? I mean, he knows he likes Annie, and what the right thing to do is...but knowing and doing are two different things. When Annie invites him to come home with her for the weekend to stay and meet her parents, he's over the moon. This is finally it...isn't it?

Smith does such a masterful job of highlighting the treacherous path we walk during adolescence: everything is such a big deal because we are doing it for the first time. Sometimes making the choice you know is right isn't easy, and life doesn't make it any easier. Hormones on top of all that make slights and joys into betrayals and jubilations. Peppered with authentic dialogue and insight, along with delightful comics and illustrations by Sam Bosma, this is a great coming-of-age novel. I laughed out loud several times.
"'And here's Ryan Dean West. Well, at least, it's the one tiny part of Ryan Dean West that makes him stand out as being so different, the only thing that everyone notices about him. The number fourteen. And you think that makes me so different, like I'm a little kid. But the thing is, everyone has that little part that's outside the overlap of everyone else. And a lot of people zero in on that one little thing they can't get over. Like for Joey, 'cause he's gay, I guess. Some people are better than others about not getting that outside-the-overlap part so noticed, but not me. So that was my wish,'" (Smith pg. 133, 2013).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Stick by Andrew Smith
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Smith, Andrew. (2013). Winger. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.