Saturday, June 13, 2015

Winger by Andrew Smith: A Chat Review with Natalie!

Some time in the past (too long for me to remember exactly when) and SOMEHOW, Natalie and I decided to do a buddy read of Winger by Andrew Smith. This book had been sitting on my shelf for ages so I thought this would be a great opportunity to finally get myself to finish it. What's better than mutual accountability right? Except when your buddy is absolute shit and I AM SO SORRY NATALIE for probably being the worst person to buddy read a book with ever. I just wasn't feeling Winger at all, put it off for ages, was super fucking slow - I'm pretty sure I finished a month after Natalie did. 

But anyway, here we are finally. Natalie and I decided to do a conversation / chat review of Winger so you can read our thoughts below! We've also added our own recommendations of other books to read after you finish Winger (or if you're ALREADY a fan of Winger) based on an important topic in the book so make sure to check both of our blogs to see both of our recommendations! And with that, let's get started.

Published May 14, 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Hardcover, 439 pages

(taken from

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids in the Pacific Northwest. 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.

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.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

ANNIE: We both read Winger by Andrew Smith and I think we had some different opinions about it but first, do you want to share what your first reaction after reading it was?

NATALIE: I LOVED it. I think I rated it something like 5 stars? The ending just sorta blew me away you know? I'm like that a lot. My emotions at the end of the book influence my rating a whole lot so yeah, I loved it. I know you didn't feel the same way though, hahaha. What did you think?

ANNIE: No, I'm the exact same way! Like a book could be totally shit but if there's one part that really hits me, that definitely influences my rating as well. Unfortunately with Winger, it was kinda just too little, too late. Like I absolutely loved the ending (although that's a weird thing to say because it was so tragic and horrible) and I wish the entire book had been like that because then I would have given it 5 stars for sure.

NATALIE: The first half almost bored me to tears. It was such a slow start! I did think that the second half improved though because I actually laughed sometimes (that one scene in the car with Joey and the old man KILLED ME). But yeah, after giving it some thought I changed my rating. There were a lot of things that I didn't like about the book so that dragged it down a whole lot.

ANNIE: Yeah, I totally agree. I just wasn't really feeling the book until very, very late in. Honestly, Joey was really the only redeeming thing about Winger. I LOVED Joey and I think had Joey not been there, my rating would probably have been a 1 instead of a 2. And yes, the car scene with the old man was AMAZING.

NATALIE: I did like the drawings though! I thought they were so cool.

Yes, the drawings were really great! They were nice to kinda break up the flow of the book. For me, I just have this problem where I really can't get into a book if I don't understand where it's going. And that was the problem for me with Winger (besides the frustrating characters). I just couldn't see what the POINT of it was.

NATALIE: Winger just didn't seem to have an end point? Or much of a plot? I felt like Smith was just winging it (pun not intended) with the whole book. Ryan Dean was so damn irritating. AND THE ROMANCE! NO. NO. NO.

ANNIE: Yes, I agree. I've seen general consensus for it being labelled as an LGBTQIA+ novel and while I do think that that was the heart of this book, I also don't really know because it took like 80% of the book for something to actually happen. Winger was basically just build up the entire way through and I feel like I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn't just the same thing over and over. eg. Ryan Dean being a hormone-crazed guy who is kinda just an asshole in general.

NATALIE: Kinda just a misogynistic asshole who treats women like objects in general ;)

ANNIE: 100%! Like I don't attempt to know what a teenage boy thinks about, perhaps Andrew Smith was sticking to authenticity? But even considering that, it was difficult as a woman to read through some of the stuff being said about the 2 main female characters, Megan & Annie. Like there was just so much talk about boobs that I just never felt like Ryan Dean West ever liked any two of them beyond what they looked like.

NATALIE: I definitely feel like women weren't properly represented in the book. There were only 4 female characters that actually had lines (and even then they don't have a lot) and most of them were just there for Ryan Dean to either think about having sex with (and to stare at their boobs) or for him to mock (i.e. The house lady). UGH. Yeah. That was my biggest problem with the book - the blatant disregard to write about/treat women as humans.

ANNIE: Oh my god, the house lady! Definitely had a problem with Ryan Dean mocking her on the fact that she was hideous (which really is up for debate) and calling her a witch. I just didn't find that funny... Though quite honestly I found a lot of things in Winger not funny. But wait, before we talk about the romance and everything else, can we go back to Joey?? Because I loved him SO much. Like he really was the bright shining star for me in this book.

NATALIE: JOEY! The light of this book. He was hands down my favourite character in Winger - he was also one of the only non-assholes. I did think that his sexuality was handled very well in the writing of the book. Some authors like to just throw in a gay character and then have them be extra 'camp' for humour and so they can say that they write diverse characters but Joey acted like people act. He was a PERSON. I loved it.

ANNIE: Oh my god, yes I have such a problem with having a gay character for the sake of having diversity. Like no that's not the way it works. And then they write them with such stereotypes? Like basically having all of these very "feminine" qualities because that's how gay men supposedly act. Joey, on the other hand, wasn't like that at all and I loved that. I loved how Andrew Smith kinda presented it out there like yeah, you can be gay and not play into those stereotypes at all like Joey who was this big, burly rugby player.

NATALIE: I still can't believe the ending. Sometimes I just look at the book on my shelf and have to clutch my poor, poor heart.

ANNIE: I know exactly what you mean. Like talk about things escalating quickly. One minute I was still rolling my eyes at Ryan Dean's stupidity and then BAM. The ending, along with Joey, were the best parts of the book for me. And the drawings. And the writing was quite funny at moments. So those were my favourite parts, what were yours?

NATALIE: Joey, Joey, Ryan Dean's roommate, Joey, Annie's parents and the drawings! AND THE ENDING. FOR SURE.

ANNIE: OH YES ANNIE'S PARENTS. I loved Annie's parents. AND ALSO the rugby aspect was pretty cool. Maybe because rugby is such a big thing at my school & I have friends on the rugby team (I actually lent Winger to my friend after I finished because she plays & loves rugby) so it was fun to see that! What about dislikes? We kinda talked about it already so I'm assuming Ryan Dean and his misogyny is surely on the list?

ANNIE: OH and Chas! I have to say, I actually really adored Chas.

NATALIE: I'm not a huge fan of rugby. It's a big thing in England but it's just not something that I'm interested in. Oh yes. That can't go amiss. Sometimes the humour was a little...gross? With the pee bottle and the typical 'boyish' jokes it just didn't do much for me.

ANNIE: Ok the pee bottle was probably the single most disgusting thing I've read about this entire year. Like dude get yourself to a bathroom and pee. Or if you insist on peeing in a bottle, do not keep it in your bed with you and do not let it "ferment" for like a month. Then when Ryan Dean spiked Casey's drink with it? I wanted to barf. So yeah definitely agree with you about the humour. There were parts that were genuinely funny but other parts that either elicited eye rolls or screams of anger from me.

NATALIE: I think I actually gagged a little when reading him spike Casey's drink with it.

ANNIE: Ick yeah. Ok another thing I didn't like about Winger was Ryan Dean's relationship with Annie. It just felt so uncomfortable.

NATALIE: It definitely wasn't the best romance I've ever read. Or even close to being a good romance. I mean, I know I wouldn't date a 14 year old. It was just so AWKWARD.

ANNIE: Not to mention that their conversations were so awkward. Like it was basically just Ryan Dean asking Annie to have sex all the time. I never felt like there was any type of attraction between the two of them beyond like superficial, you're good looking, let's date. I mean I guess they were best friends but it was difficult to see at times. Maybe I also have a problem with it because I just didn't love Annie all that much.

NATALIE: I thought Annie didn't like him at all? Through the beginning of the book I felt like she just wanted to be friends with him and the whole thing just felt a little off. I don't think her character was written well at all - and she was annoying. 

ANNIE: So annoying. And yeah, never really understood when Annie passed the line of looking at Ryan Dean like a little brother to actually liking him. And I thought the sideplot with Megan was so unnecessary. Like I just didn't get that at all.

NATALIE: IT WAS SO STUPID. It didn't even serve any purpose - just thrown in so that Ryan Dean could be even more of an asshole.

ANNIE: EXACTLY. And also to assert just how stud-like he really is even though hot Annie doesn't like him. Hey, here's another hot girl who does like him so THERE.

NATALIE: Hot Annie does like him so he needs to show that he is a MAN. Ryan Dean is attractive. He is make. All the chicks dig him.

ANNIE: Haha yes!

NATALIE: Overall though I just thought that although the book had a FEW redeeming factors (Joey and, uh, Joey) there were too many things that pissed me off about it. I changed my rating to 3 stars because the ending did mess with me a whole lot so I had to give that some credit. As a whole, however, I just didn't enjoy the book.

ANNIE: Joey and Joey is correct! I loved Joey and Chas and the rugby aspect of it. I liked how Joey didn't play into any stereotypes and like we've covered, the ending was SO great. I really just wished there had been more of the magic in that ending in the rest of the book because for the majority of Winger I was just like what does this have to do with the overall story, why am I reading this, this isn't what I signed up for. But yeah, the ending was great and it's hard to ignore the magic of Joey so it was two stars from me!

my recommendations
Finished Winger? Here are some more books about sports to read once you're done!


This was a book I read recently and absolutely ADORED. It's set in Montreal (which means bonus points for a true Canadian setting!) and features some awesome Parent Trap antics. The hockey and figure skating aspects are also delved into with a lot of detail so if you're someone who's looking for a cute, Disney Channel movie-esque read, this is definitely one you should check out!


I've read Stealing Parker (which wasn't my favourite thing but anyway) but not Catching Jordan, although I've heard great things about it! Football isn't a sport I'm really into watching but I love the idea of a female quarterback on a male team - YES to breaking gender confines and YES to girl power! 

And on a side note, this entire series is sports-related so if you're looking for more books about sports, check these books out!


Oh, Katie McGarry. One of the best YA romance authors, surely. All of her books are an absolute joy to read and Take Me On was one of my favourites. It's the fourth book in the Pushing the Limits series although you don't absolutely have to read the books in order - they work as standalones too, although you might miss some character references as they pop back up. In this book, Wes and Haley train together for a boxing tournament. Again, not a sport I keep up with so it was very interesting to kinda learn more about it.


This was actually a book I hadn't heard of before thinking up possibilities for lists but it sounds super interesting. It's about a girl who loses her leg in a car accident but is insistent on learning how to run again with her prosthetic leg. I've read tremendous things about this book since so it's definitely a book that's high on my TBR right now. 


Yes, another figure skating book but I couldn't help it! I'm reading this one currently and while the story itself is very cute, the figure skating aspect is really the draw for me. After sitting with my mom watching hours of figure skating competitions in the past, it's kinda grown on me and The Boy Next Door really does delve into a deeper look at pairs figure skating and the process (in America at least) to get to the top and compete. 

And that's it from me! Have you guys read Winger? What did you think? And do you have any other sports-related books to recommend? See ya in the comments!

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