This book is 400 pages of ridiculous, teenage boy bravado and sex. It’s hilarious and real and heartwarming.
And then the next ten pages are tense and unnerving.
And the last ten pages? They made me weep. I’m actually starting to tear up again just thinking about them.
Last year, I read the outlandish Grasshopper Jungle. And I knew that Andrew Smith was a writer who understood HOW to write a teenage boy. It wasn’t just that he remembered being a teenage boy, it was more than that. He seemed to know exactly what to say and how to say it in order to make the characters — in the single most ridiculous book I’ve ever read — be among the most realistic I’ve ever seen on a written page.
This is the book that Andrew Smith wrote a year before Grasshopper Jungle. And the plot is simple: Ryan Dean Smith is a junior at a fancy prep school in Oregon, but he’s only 14. He plays rugby with his friends and is in love with a beautiful Junior named Annie. He likes to draw, go for runs, and joke around. That’s pretty much it.
But, as they say, the devil is in the details. And in the case, the details blew me away.
Andrew Smith was born in 1959 (this just might be the first YA author I’ve read who is actually older than I am). He’s far from his days as a teenage boy, but I’d be hard pressed to name an author working today — at any age — who is writing more honest dialogue for real kids. The only writer I can think of who comes close in this regard is the wonderful AS King, and I was damn glad to see the encouraging blurb she had on the back cover. I wasn’t surprised to see that he also teaches high school.
Andrew Smith has just earned himself a place on my automatic read list, joining Stephen King, Rainbow Rowell, Ian Rankin, Christopher Brookmyre, and James Ellroy (NB — I would put Jane Austen on the list, but I find it doubtful that she’ll be writing anything new in the near future). And I just saw on Twitter that a sequel to Winger is in the works. I can’t wait.