Release Date: 14 May 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reading/Interest Level: Grades 8 & up
Ryan Dean West, known by some as West and by his teammates as Winger, is a 14-year-old boarding school junior. Younger than all his classmates and sentenced to O Hall–where the “bad” kids are sent–West must tackle his junior year head on. From crushing on his best friend Annie to being subjected to “The Consequence” after losing at poker, West/Winger will keep you laughing from page one. Smith’s writing creates a very genuine character who gives you a glimpse into the lives of teen boys–from friendship and love to sports and getting in trouble.
Winger isn’t an in-your-face tackling of LGBT issues but rather a subtle inclusion and a glimpse into what friendship means. West’s friend and fellow O Hall occupant happens to be gay but his rugby teammates accept him for who he is and stand up to others when they don’t. Without spoiling the novel for readers, I feel like I can’t and shouldn’t share anymore about the LGBT aspect of this story but know this–it’s solid and heart-breaking.