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Winger by Andrew Smith

Winger I know right off the bat that this is probably going to be the hardest review I’ve written, because I love this book so much, and because I want to tell you exactly nothing about it.

‘Winger’… Winger, or Ryan Dean, is the main character of the book. He’s younger than his classmates at his private boarding school, super smart, a bit awkward, mature in strange ways, childlike and confused in others. He’s gotten into trouble and been assigned to a new room and building with some of the less exemplary students. At first, he’s just angry and nervous, but he starts to make friends (and enemies) here and there, as he sorts out his new situation.

That’s all I want to tell you. If you think you might be interested in this book, do yourself a favor. Don’t look up a billion reviews. Don’t read into the book and what it’s about before you actually read it. DON’T skip ahead. Just take my word for how beautifully, brilliantly written this book is and read it. If you wanted to stop reading this review right now and just get the book, that probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Otherwise, take my word for it, when I say, I read a lot of books. A lot. But I’ve never read anything that was written like this. Never anything so genius. The entire book is about Ryan Dean, but really, this story is a layer over something else, another story below and between Ryan Dean’s immediate, obvious issues and concerns. And when it hits you, when you see, really see, what the book has been the whole time, it’s… breathtaking. It’s gorgeous and it’ll break you. Don’t read this book in a public place. Don’t read it on the plane or at the doctor’s office. I finished this at the kitchen table, and that was a big mistake.

You can also trust me when I say that this book has amazing characters, a ton of humor, true emotion, great romance, honest conflicts that teens and, yeah, let’s be honest, a ton of adults, face. It’s real in its bluntness and its layers and the way the story is presented. There are a lot of boys in this novel. I mean, there are a lot of boy characters, but what I really mean is that there’s a lot of boy thought, boy emotion. It’s refreshing. Boys are so different. So blunt and eager to prove things with their bodies and their force, and Andrew Smith, the author, does an amazing job of capturing that teenage boy mentality here. The way Ryan Dean and his friends are somewhere between child and adult, the way they think and act‐ it’s so raw that it feels true and real.

Looking back, I can already see this review is as disjointed and strange as I’d thought it would be. I just don’t know how to explain how incredible this novel is without giving away the story. I can’t even think straight when I think about this book. It bowls me over just remembering how it made me feel.

This is a beautiful book. Just stop reading my crazy review and go out and get yourself a copy.

And when you’re done, you can go out and get the rest of Andrew Smith’s work. I can say with pretty much no doubt in my mind that he’s one of my favorite authors, and definitely my favorite teen author (and you really don’t need to be a teen to enjoy these books.) I’m particularly partial to ‘The Marbury Lens.’   -SEL

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