Winger by Andrew Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've been neglecting this section of Andrew Smith's bibliography for quite a while, and having managed to read it all in less than two hours, I wish I'd gotten around to it sooner, for several reasons.
First, the fact that the primary couple in this story is named Ryan Dean (the Dean is required when invoking his name) and Annie. Since I have a pair of siblings in Red Rain named Ryan and Annie, this is a hilariously disturbing coincidence, one I may have to rectify soon enough.
Second, the use of silly-ass comic strips to liven up the story's already wackadoodle sense of humor. Hey, it's Andrew Smith - the sense of humor is always wackadoodle. It's not as blackly comic as some of his more recent works, though. Because while those other books mostly just make humor out of catastrophic injury to a guy's man-bits, this one actually subjects poor Ryan Dean, among others, to numerous such catastrophic injuries, with far-from-pretty results.
Third, the fact that unlike all the other Andrew Smith books I've read, this one has no genuine horror/sci-fi genre trappings involved. Just the odd joke about how much of a demonic hellspawned witch Mrs. Singer is.
But it wouldn't be Andrew Smith without making you feel like steaming dog shit in the end. Because hey, it can be hard to be a barely-pubescent dweeb like Ryan Dean (and, being a post-pubescent dweeb myself, I mean that in the nicest of ways, of course), and you will know it from reading his account of life. I almost wish I could have lived his life, though. Maybe I'm just that sheltered that I need a more hardcore break from my own reality. Could someone shell out the money to build a Star Trek holodeck and allow us to experience the life of Winger, just for a change of scenery to the Pacific Northwest? As well as to remind us all why rugby is truly the sport of madmen? And that it can, in fact, be cool to wear Pokemon underwear after the age of ten, if you're in the right circumstances (read: Halloween when wearing a miniskirt of a caveman outfit)?
What really makes you feel like steaming dog shit in the end, though, is the actual ending. Not only does it come pretty much out of nowhere (although there are some pretty subtle foreshadowings that make sense only when you finish the book), but it's just too bloody brutal. Emphasis on "bloody." And "brutal." It's so sad you might forget to cry at first - and don't feel bad if that happens, because Ryan Dean (I almost typed "Ryan Dead" there - Freud Was Right after all!) did that too. It's like Spud all over again, but worse. Infinitely worse. This man, this guy who wrote this book - people say I hurt their feels with my writing? Something tells me they wouldn't be able to handle this one.
I find it very hard to believe Andrew Sith (totally intentional slip there, BTW) is about to publish a sequel to this. Should I read it? Will it be part of the increasingly disturbing trend of Grasshopper Jungle and The Alex Crow? Or will it be a breath of relative fresh air and sanity in comparison?
We'll just have to wait and find out. Until the next ridiculously long Andrew Smith-induced review, peoples...keep calm and FOR GOD'S SAKE, DON'T DRINK THE GATORADE!
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