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.Winger by Andrew Smith is another YA novel set in a boarding school where the adults are clueless, or worse, and the kids run roughshod over each other. Ryan Dean West, aka Winger, is a young genius who seems intent on getting himself killed in his attempt to appear older than he is to attract attention from Annie, his best friend and love interest. For being as smart and nerdy as he thinks he is, Winger keeps doing unsmart and unnerdy things, many of them related to male genitalia. I am not kidding, the novel seems to be obsessed with the male anatomy and comments about it form the basis for a very crude level of humor throughout it. There really are quite a few light-hearted, funny scenes in the book. However, underneath the humorous veneer, there is a very serious issue---bullying of younger, smaller, and gay boys. This bullying ends with tragic events, too.
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. -from Goodreads
Bullying at the high school level is a huge problem in our country, one I don't think any public or private institution can completely deal with alone. But adults, in those institutions, can certainly be more present and aware. They can be more proactive and assertive. When Winger commits a school infraction he is sent to live in Opportunity Hall, where all the troublemakers in this private school live. That makes no sense to me. Putting all the bad kids together, especially the youngest with the biggest and meanest thug. But I guess that authors have to set up their stories somehow and plots wouldn't be very interesting if adults always did the right things and were positive role models for the students, always making decisions that worked the best for everyone involved. So we are left with tales of woe where kids have to learn the lessons after tragedies. Hmm...maybe the book is more like real life than what I first thought.
Though the book is flawed (what book isn't?), I did find it to be an enjoyable read and will consider it for our Mock Printz reading list.
30 books this Summer Reading Challenge
9 / 30 books. 30% done!