Book Review: Winger by Andrew Smith

Winger by Andrew Smith is set in Pine Mountain, a boarding school based in Portland, Oregon and follows the story of 14 year old Ryan Dean West. Ryan is the Winger on the school rugby team, intelligent enough to have skipped a grade and is madly in love with his best friend Annie Altman. Throughout this novel we get to take a glimpse into Ryan Dean’s life as he spends the year in Opportunity Hall – the dorms housing Pine Mountain’s local miscreants.

Andrew Smith caught me hook, line and sinker with Winger by bringing rugby to the forefront of a YA book. Using the sport as a central point Smith brought together a cast of characters that had a sense of camaraderie and morals that come with the game. In particular, Ryan Dean’s love for the sport guides his behaviour to some extent however his character is rounded with teenage hormones still leading him to make various mistakes that impact his life to varying degrees. I also enjoyed the use of illustrations sketched for us by the narrator to illustrate his points allowing us a further insight into how his brain works. Let’s just say that there is a whole lot of sexual thoughts from Ryan Dean.


Winger is certainly a coming of age story featuring friendships, love and heartbreak – themes that everyone will have been through and can relate to. What I really enjoyed was just how well balanced the story was, fitting light hearted moment that include a plaster on someone’s scrotum with more serious themes like the breaking down of well established friendship.


The size of the book can be quite daunting but it is well paced and I found myself struggling to put it down once I had started. Winger is certainly a book that will leave you with a lot of feelings and valuing your good friends.

Have you read Winger? What are your thoughts?

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1 Comment

  1. Alan
    December 27, 2018 / 8:40 am

    I wasn’t thrilled by “Winger.” The author gives the title character every advantage: we learn he’s got a cool name and the coolest team nickname, he’s the smartest boy in school, he’s an incredibly talented artist, he’s the handsomest boy on campus (according to the two hottest girls, who are both after him in their own way), he’s a star player on the rugby team. But throughout, Winger keeps telling us he’s a loser. There’s no proof of that whatsoever, nor of a deep friendship he supposedly wrecks with a former roommate. He keeps whining about being younger than others in his class, but it apparently makes no real difference to them. And despite having two hot girlfriends, he is extremely sexist and misogynistic – not a single female character avoids being ranked for “hotness.” Also, Winger mentions his genitals on NEARLY EVERY PAGE. I kid you not. In the end, he sails right through the story (which has no real shape but just goes on and on) without learning any lessons or earning any prize that wasn’t ready to be handed to him at the very beginning. Throughout, he’s lucky to be backed up by at least one truly loyal, fearless, wise friend, whom he lets down in the most tragic way possible in the end – though Winger doesn’t acknowledge that guilt at all – the author just quits. Cleverly written, but lame.

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