June 2013

Blasting the boarding school blues

By Andrew Smith
Review by
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A reader looking to pigeonhole Winger into a traditional genre category may be in for a surprise. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny sports story set at a boarding school, but it’s also a serious look at the many different forms of love—and a subtle meta-narrative about the process of telling a story.

Ryan Dean West is an anomaly at his preppy boarding school—he’s 14 and already a junior—when his involvement in a petty crime forces his transfer from the boys’ dorm to Opportunity Hall, a bare-bones, prison-like residence for troublesome students. Despite this inauspicious start, Ryan Dean is determined that this will be the year he reinvents himself. As he gears up for rugby season, dodges an intimidating new roommate, navigates girl trouble and develops a growing friendship with a gay teammate, Ryan Dean relates his story in a combination of bar graphs, line graphs, cartoon panels and imagined conversations with himself.

But something sinister lurks under the hilarious antics of the rugby team, and when Ryan Dean is finally confronted with a situation he can’t laugh about, he finds that nothing in his familiar box of narrative tricks is enough to describe it.

Reminiscent of Looking for Alaska, Winger packs a punch that will leave readers rethinking their assumptions about humor, friendship and the nature of storytelling—and about the broad range of emotions of which teenage boys are capable.

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By Andrew Smith
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781442444928

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