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Winger #1


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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.

439 pages, Hardcover

First published May 14, 2013

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About the author

Andrew Smith

26 books1,701 followers
Andrew Smith is the author of Winger, Grasshopper Jungle, The Alex Crow, 100 Sideways Miles, and Rabbit & Robot, among others. Exile from Eden: Or, After the Hole, the long-awaited sequel to Grasshopper Jungle, is coming from Simon & Schuster on September 24, 2019.

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5 stars
9,849 (43%)
4 stars
7,008 (30%)
3 stars
3,498 (15%)
2 stars
1,314 (5%)
1 star
960 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,204 reviews
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,173 reviews8,386 followers
January 5, 2015
Winger is about a fourteen year old boy named Ryan Dean West who plays rugby at Pine Mountain Academy. He is very "teenage boy" if you know what I mean; hormonal, crude, and thinks he's in love with every girl he sees. He also draws some, and those cartoons are integrated right into the text of the novel.

Why am I giving this book a 1 star rating?

I am fine with saying that I just found myself too old for this book. Some people may argue that you can't be too young or old for books, but in this case, having a fourteen year old protagonist dealing with some very mature issues, I could not relate. And subsequently, I felt like the issues were handled very poorly.

The book started as a 3-star book for me, but as it went on the rating plummeted to a 2-star for most of the book, and finally by the end I was so bothered that it went to a 1-star rating.

If you're afraid of anything possibly spoilery, then don't continue reading (unless A.) you've already read this book or B.) you don't plan on ever reading it:

This book deals with LGBTQ topics, which I thought were terribly done. The gay friend character in this book was a great guy, very likeable, and that had me optimistically reading on. But then, without spoiling anything, THE ENDING WAS SO AWFUL. Everything works out great for our narrator, Ryan Dean, but the gay friend (I don't like referring to him as this but I don't want to say the name in case you do end up reading it) is used as a freakin' plot device (not unlike the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that also shows up in this book as Ryan Dean's love interest). Literally, the whole novel is Ryan Dean saying how cool he is with his friend being gay, constantly defending his not-gayness whenever he has a genuine moment with said friend, and then the author exploiting this issue at the end to bring about character development in our narrator.

I was honestly appalled.

The resolution of this 440 page novel happens in the last 10 pages, so for literally 97% of the novel, Ryan Dean is a one-note, horny, teenage boy, and then MIRACULOUSLY becomes a better person by the end because of this plot point revolving around his gay friend.

Besides that, the writing was okay. I'm fine with a little profanity here or there, but this book just had so much in it that was unnecessary and distracting. And on top of that, Ryan Dean says he doesn't cuss in real life, but when he does in the book he reminds you that "it's just what I'm thinking" at the time, but not what he actually said. That got really old, really fast.

Was there anything redeeming about this book? Honestly, I'm trying to find something as I type this and the only thing I can think about is that I laughed a couple of times.

Sidenote: there is a point in the book where Ryan Dean's mom sends him a box of condoms and a pamphlet about how to have sex for the first time. He is fourteen years old. Now, I don't know about most parents, but I find it highly unlikely that a mother would send her 14 year old son any of those things. Just sayin'.

I know a lot of people love this book, but I'm struggling to see why. It's very cliché, and honestly quite offensive at times. I hope that my reasoning justifies this view. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Peace out.
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews176k followers
April 26, 2014
I can't even begin to tell you how good this book was. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. I had issues with the main character, but I like when I have problems with a main character. I enjoy reading about flawed characters. It gets annoying when you read books where the main character is perfect and everybody likes them. The main character in this book goes through a transformation throughout this book and that was really neat to follow. The plot was really interesting and the book went in a direction that I didn't think it would go. While it's a light hearted and hilarious story, it also has a VERY dark tone towards the end. I would HIGHLY recommend this book, but know that there is crude language and perverse humor.
Profile Image for Elle.
420 reviews105 followers
August 10, 2016
I’ve got to be brutally honest, I’m not sure why this book has so many glowing reviews and award nominations. Andrew Smith is a good writer, and his truthful, unedited portrayal of teenage boys reminds me of John Green’s Paper Towns (yes, for once, the Green comparisons are actually valid). But Winger is poorly paced and as a feminist and a LGBTQ ally I found Smith’s novel deeply problematic.

Winger tells the story of Ryan Dean, a fourteen-year-old junior and rugby player at a boarding school for rich kids. Ryan Dean finds himself dodging teachers and students alike as he attempts to reinvent himself while obsessively pining over his best friend Annie, who only thinks of him as a little boy.

Ryan Dean is a fourteen-year-old boy, and there are lots of annoying fourteen-year-old boys in the world. In fact, Smith should be praised for his excellent characterisation, because Ryan Dean is the most frustratingly realistic fourteen-year-old boy I’ve ever read. He’s also grossly misogynistic and ever-so-slightly homophobic and about a thousand times less likeable than I’m sure Smith intended him to be. At no point in the story did I find myself rooting for Ryan Dean, who seems to view his “best guy friend” Joey not as a human being, but as an interesting museum piece titled Gay. It’s apparently impossible for our protagonist to mention Joey without (a) mentioning how gay Joey is and (b) mentioning how absolutely 100% straight he, Ryan Dean, is (just in case the reader hadn’t already caught on from his insistent objectification of every single woman he ever sees). Simply put, Ryan Dean was unpleasant and blissfully unaware of his unpleasantness.

I don’t usually have a problem with unlikeable protagonists - in fact, most of my favourite novels have unlikeable or unreliable narrators. Winger had the potential to be brilliant. Ryan Dean was in dire need of a wake up call, and if his character growth had been more satisfactory, I might have understood why everyone else is raving about Winger. But I’m not convinced that Ryan Dean did grow as a person at all. He apologises to the male classmates he wronged, but sees absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to treat the women in his life like prizes to be won. Worse still, Smith lets Ryan Dean get the girl at the end, as a reward for his good behaviour. It’s okay that Ryan Dean has been acting as though he alone is entitled to Annie’s affections, Smith tells his readers, because she was secretly in love with him after all. Rather than write a satisfactory conclusion which shows Ryan Dean’s character growth, Smith takes the story in a completely different direction and ends on a dismissively sensational shocker which eclipses Ryan Dean’s petty concerns and leaves the reader with only ten pages of closure.

SPOILERS AHEAD (trigger warning: hate crime, violence)

It’s sickeningly offensive, and I can’t quite believe that books like Winger are still lauded as “progressive”, while books that actually present nuanced, respectful portrayals of LGBTQ teenagers telling their own stories so often go unheard of.

Many thanks to Penguin Books for providing a copy of Winger in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: Penguin Books
Rating: 1 star | ★✰✰✰✰
Review cross-posted to Goodreads
Profile Image for Jen  Bigheart.
299 reviews126 followers
December 4, 2013
How can one story make you literally crack up laughing on one page and the next you find yourself bawling your eyes out. If I could give this more than 5 measly stars I would. 440 pages of genius.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,520 reviews8,993 followers
June 27, 2013
Unpopular opinion of the day: Winger wasn't that wonderful.

Seeing all the glowing, five-star reviews of this book, I wonder if it's me who went wrong. Andrew Smith did a lot of the little things right in this in Winger. He established a consistent narrative, incorporated rugby and its rules with ease, used a boarding school as the book's setting, and featured a nice friendship between Winger, the main character, and his best friend, Joey.

But I wanted more from this 400+ page book. Several themes or characters could have been fleshed out with all of that space. Winger and Annie's relationship struck me as false - Winger finds several girls attractive, including Annie, but why do these two like each other besides the fact that they say and act like they do? Winger's personality, while relatable to some, felt stagnant to me, almost as flat as the secondary characters in this novel. It wasn't until the plot twist that took place near page 400 that he showed any real progress beyond just solving a problem or beating someone up. Perhaps if that last event had occurred earlier in the book - it did elevate my rating from two to three stars nonetheless - Winger could have had more psychological development.

Overall, Winger was a decent book. I didn't mind reading it, but I didn't particularly look forward to it either. One sweep of the Goodreads page and you can discern I'm in the minority though. If the synopsis interests you, I would recommend reading the first few chapters to see if Winger's voice reels you in. If not, pass.

*review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.
Profile Image for Ɗẳɳ  2.☊.
159 reviews299 followers
May 31, 2020
Here I am again, the voice of reason, fighting the good fight against a tidal wave of praise and support, in a heroic effort to save you from wasting your precious time and losing your sanity on this dreck. You’re welcome. But I know what you’re thinking, “This is the guy that hates everything, right? How can I possibly trust his opinion?” Well no worries, friendo, because I’m about to break it all down for you.

However, if you’re a teenager or you can relate to or still have the mentality of a sex-crazed, mouthy adolescent, then, by all means, delve in. Feel free to ignore this old man’s rant because I will readily admit that I’m just too old for this shit. I must be a senile old fool . . . cause obvi this book is amazeballs. Winger is like totes adorbs, yo.

However, I had a slightly different reaction to the book:

The story follows Ryan Dean West—a teenager struggling through a rough patch in life—while he grumbles about the challenges of life as a pathetic-fourteen-year-old-skinny-ass-fucking-loser-with-no-social-skills. Oh yeah, he likes to hyphenate everything, by the way.

Now, allow me a moment to lay out a few facts to help put his attitude in perspective.

Fact #1, he’s enrolled at an uber elite boarding school in the Pacific Northwest where the students are so rich they hop planes to fly home every weekend. Fact #2, Ryan Dean is so smart he’s already skipped a couple of grades. Fact #3, he’s the starting Winger for the varsity rugby squad. Fact #4, he’s so adorable all the girls just want to eat him up.

Okay, here’s a dilemma, with the proverbial pick of the litter, which girl should he choose? His best friend, Annie, or should try to sweet talk his roommate’s girlfriend instead? Hmm, tough call, Ryan Dean, that’s a real Sophie’s Choice, buddy. #firstworldproblems

God, he’s such a spoiled little brat, even his name annoyed me. In my view, only an irate mother yelling at her kid to clean up their room or take out the trash should ever address a teen by two names. Grow up, Ryan!

The story was crafted in a lighthearted, humorous way, but far too often I thought the humor fell flat. Like the scene where Winger was bullied into a late-night, high-stakes poker match. High stakes because they’ll be expelled if they’re caught. Wow, seriously? During the match, he’s pressured into drinking his first beer, so, naturally, he’s drunk from that single beer. Sure, why not. Then, he’s the first one knocked out so now he’ll have to face the consequences. Previous first men out were dared to skinny dip in the lake or run across the football field in nothing but boxer shorts. Ooh, scary. So what audacious challenge do you suppose they’ll put to young Winger . . . ? They dare him to go downstairs to the vacant girls’ dormitory and pee in their bathroom. Wait, what? That’s it?

And therein lies the problem. The story was just so vapid. What’s the point of any of it? *Shakes Magic 8 Ball* “Unclear, ask again later.”

❅Winger’s roommate’s a bully, or is he?
❅You’re so beautiful, Annie. Stop, Ryan Dean, let’s just be friends.
❅Insert love triangle.
❅Sprinkle in a few amusing pratfalls.

The rugby matches could have been a nice place to inject some much-needed action and excitement into the story, but no. They were entirely glossed over. All the games were merely preseason scrimmages. The bus rides to the matches were more entertaining than the games themselves. And I still don’t even understand how the game is played.

Granted, you don’t have to write a mystery, thriller, or some conspiracy theory to keep me engaged in the story. But, for the love of Pete, could you please provide some level of intrigue? Something that I can sink my dentures into. Something other than all this teen angst bullshit! Ugh.

And stop with the nonsense that I’m too old to enjoy YA because I loved Harry Potter. The sense of wonder was awe-inspiring; the stakes were sky-high. And I thought Half a King was a terrific action-adventure, chock-full of clever twists and turns, betrayals and revenge. And the level of gore in The Troop made my stomach clench, my body shake, my mind scream, “Pass the brain bleach!” For God’s sake Winger, give me something!

There was an air of authenticity to the writing at least. That is to say, it appeared to be written by a teenager, at maybe an eighth-grade level, with all of the crude dialog and topics you’d expect. Smith really nailed that voice, but oddly enough, the few adults in the story sounded the exact same.

Maybe the best way I could describe this book is that it felt like a mashup of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Looking for Alaska—two books that I absolutely despised. So, I’m sorry, but this book didn’t work for me on any level.

And finally, the way in which the author used a gay character arc

I think I’ll leave you with a verse from MCA (RIP) that succinctly encapsulated my reading experience:

Pass me the scalpel, I’ll make an incision
I’ll cut off the part of your brain that does the bitching
Put it in formaldehyde and put it on the shelf
And you can show it to your friends and say that’s my old self

Profile Image for Tif.
155 reviews5 followers
July 22, 2013
What-if-I-were-to-write-my-entire-review-like-this-in-a-hyphen-abusing-sort-of-way? Would-it-annoy-you-nearly-as-much-as-reading-several-sentences-like-this-on-every-single-page-of-the-book-annoyed-me? Let's-try-it:

Ryan-Dean-is-many-things. He-is-a-stupid-name-and-an-unlikeable-protagonist. He-is-the-author-of-his-own-troubles. He-is-a-loser, he-is-a-skinny-bitch-ass, and-he-is-not-gay. If-you-can't-remember-any-of-this-don't-worry-he-will-incessantly-remind-you-in-a-guy-with-alzheimer's-sort-of-way. Annoyed-yet?

Other things he will repeatedly remind you of:

* He is okay with guys who are gay.
* All three of the girls in his school are hot.
* His one female teacher is hot. As is the one female nurse.
* The woman (teacher?) living in his dorm hall is unhot and probably a witch. And unhot.
* He is a kid. All of two whopping years younger than the rest of his classmates.

Seriously, Ryan Deal will never ever let you forget these facts about himself. On every single page.

But as bad as this all may (or may not) sound to you, it was a tolerably light read with the occasional bout of legitimate humor. That is until about the last 20 or so pages at the end of the book. Had I known how it would end I would never have read it in the first place.
Profile Image for Shaun Hutchinson.
Author 24 books4,717 followers
May 26, 2013
I don't know how to review a book like Winger. I've loved every single one of Andrew Smith's books. Some more that others. But each one has offered up something honest and real and beautiful. Winger is different.

I read in the NYT's review that Winger belongs to a group of books that are all very John Green in nature. And while John Green is certainly a talented writer, I think he writes the kinds of teenagers that adults wish teenagers were. Andrew Smith, on the other hand, writes teenagers as they actually are. And in that lies his magic.

Winger is both perversely hilarious and devastating. I bawled my way through the last twenty pages after laughing my way through the first 410. More than any other book Andrew has written, Winger offers up the harsh truth and beauty of being alive, of being a teenage boy. Of being any kind of teenager. This book has left me feeling really raw. Ryan Dean and Joey and Seanie and even Chas feel like real people. It's strange to think they're not out there somewhere playing poker and giving rides to Screaming Ned.

One of the best compliments I ever got as a writer was from a friend who finished one of my books, threw it at me, and told me she hated my guts.

Well, I can't throw my book at you, Andrew Smith, but I hate your guts. Thank you for that.

Also, if Winger doesn't win the Printz award this year, then I'd seriously question its credibility.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews33 followers
May 30, 2021
Winger (Winger #1), Andrew Smith

The story follows 14-year-old Ryan Dean West, as he recounts past events that he has experienced in his journey of maturation.

Ryan Dean West, the narrator is a at a boarding school for rich kids. He reveals that "Ryan Dean" is, in fact, his first name and that his intelligence has led him to skip ahead two grades.

He lives at Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers.

He is assigned a room in O-Hall with Chas Becker, a senior whom Ryan Dean despises.

After being invited to play a poker game by Chas, Ryan Dean's former roommates JP, and Seanie warn him about the consequence, a typically humiliating dare given to the losing player. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش

عنوان: وینگر کتاب نخست از سری وینگر؛ نویسنده اندرو اسمیت؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 21م

داستان در مدرسه ای در «اورگان» رخ مینماید، و «رایان دین وست» راوی این داستان، جوانی چهارده ساله است، که در یک مدرسه شبانه روزی بچه های ثروتمند، درس میخواند؛ او میگوید «رایان دین» نام کوچک وی است، و هوشمندیش باعث شده، تا دو کلاس جلوتر بپرد؛ و باقی داستان بازی پوکر و ....؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 08/03/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Maureen.
240 reviews9 followers
December 27, 2013
I don't know if these are spoilers, per se ... emotional spoilers, maybe? Anyway, read at your own risk...
No. Just...no.

This book didn't earn what it tried to do at the end. And it's so...sensational that it makes me angry, like really and truly MAD, at the author for trying it.

410 pages of dick-and-ball jokes, homo-bashing, and objectifying girls are NOT erasable by a shock ending.

Fuck you, author man. I'm so mad I can't even with this.
I can see, based on this novel's Printz-nod and unbelievably high average rating here on Goodreads, that I am way, way in the minority on this one. For that reason alone, I solemnly promise that I will gather my thoughts and write a coherent review of this, one that does not involve me sputtering in horror and anger and disbelief. In fact, I disliked this so much that I found myself grinding my teeth in frustration at it all: the characters, the terrible plot, the far-too-frequent mentions of balls, the objectification, and the complete and total lack of the main character having learned a thing. ANYTHING.

New goal: work the phrase "Jaw-clenchingly angry" into my review.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,606 reviews5,990 followers
March 14, 2015
Meet Ryan Dean aka Winger, he is that guy that isn't really a nerd but sure isn't that cool guy either. You remember him don't you? He's the guy that makes you laugh like no one else could. Little horn dog fellow who thinks about sex five thousand times a day.
Ryan Dean is fourteen and in the 11th grade at a "rich kids school"-he has been assigned in OR hall for stealing a teacher's cell phone and hacking into it. He is to share a room with the school's jock bully so he is sure to die before the first week is finished.
Ryan Dean is funny, sweet, annoying and seems to attract the smoking hot girls like flies to honey.
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Things I liked about this book:
The characters-flaws and all they are some of the best
Ryan Dean-The boy makes me laugh, I love a guy that makes me laugh
The pacing-just right, keeps the pages turning and the story going
The laugh out louds this book gave me-Even if I did get some funny looks
That dang gay Pug of Annie's
Mrs. Singer and her hexes. I'm going to put a diarrhea curse on someone one day.

Things I didn't like about this book:
The relationship with Ryan Dean and Annie-I think they didn't have to have the whole looooove angle. Just let them be friends and let the boy be the horn dog that we all know he is.
I would have liked more time with the characters. I liked them all so much I just wanted more.

Just so you do know---this book will destroy you. You'll be reading along and IT WILL COME FROM NOWHERE.

Ryan Dean, you are not a loser and I'll hold your hand anyday.
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(these are my doggies)
Profile Image for Nadia.
406 reviews
May 30, 2018
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Did I laugh ? Yes.
Was there good writing? Yes.
Were the drawings pretty ? Yes.

Those were the only redeemable things about this book.
And Joey, the only character I actually liked/cared about.

Other than that this book was just homophobic and sexist.

This book to me was the embodiment of saying "No Homo" every 5 minutes.
Profile Image for Ash Wednesday.
441 reviews525 followers
September 20, 2013

In this episode of What The F*ck Happened...

Meet Winger.


Pine Mountain Academy is a school for the rich and the supposedly neglected where Ryan Dean West is a 14-year old junior. The story starts as he begins to serve his sentence (for stealing a teacher's phone) in Opportunity Hall, the school's dorm for the exceptionally delinquent. His day begins by getting dunked in one of the common toilets in O-Hall by two football bullies. Fun times. To make thing more interesting, he is also bunkmates with Chas Becker (Betch), his rugby teamate who fits the stereotypical dumb jock sketch which also includes wanting to kill him hating him.

Ryan Dean on the other hand fits the role of the smart, skinny, prepubescent kid who takes a lot of crap for being two years younger than everyone else. But it's the beginning of the school year and Ryan Dean is hell-bent on making some changes and improving his social stock value starting with his best friend Annie who he's been secretly in love with but still sees him as a little boy.

The story is pretty much several Days in the Life of Winger, where we get to meet his friends, share his thoughts, read about the crazy and embarrassing situations they get themselves into that will probably make Ryan Dean a legend in dinner conversations when he reaches a certain age. But for the here and now, he's 14.
"You look like a gay caveman," JP said.
"Well, that wasn't quite the effect I was going for."
"Dude. You have Pokemon underwear on."

That wasn't even the funniest bit about the Pokemon briefs.

Personally, that's like the age I would least like to hear about from the POV of a boy. And Winger pretty much justifies my prejudice. Because Ryan Dean's thoughts were comprised mostly of balls (other people's and his own), sex, pee and rugby. It was all pretty juvenile and awkward at first, then you realize you're witnessing how the primordial male brain works before it evolves irreversibly to this.

Once you manage to keep that in your perspective, it does make Ryan Dean as the narrator easier to take. Because he really is an amusing storyteller who's generous enough to share his thoughts and musings in comic strip form and sketches. He also has this habit of qualifying his emotions and thoughts through bar graphs, line charts, Venn diagrams and scales that I think will satisfy both Barney Stinson and Microsoft Excel fans alike.
Nurse Hickey is a hissing five out of five leaky air conditioning units on the Ryan Dean West Global Hotness Scale.

RD's moments with Annie was very interesting for me because I remember how big a deal a couple of years' age difference is at that point in anyone's life and it isn't something I often read about in YA books from the perspective of the younger, "loser" boy. It was honest and gave me the right kind of warm and fuzzy feels.

The secondary characters were likable and memorable, their shenanigans absurd (which is my favorite type of shenanigans) and for the first 389-pages you get taken for a Harold and Kumar-type of misadventure (minus the drugs) with a lot of laugh out loud moments that could easily distract the reader from the story it's trying to tell. You KNOW its going somewhere, there's a general subtext of shit waiting to hit the fan, but you don't know where it's coming from. And when you do realize where it's going to come from, you take a step back, look at the bigger picture and not make one sense of it.

Because when you get to THAT point, that point where Ryan Dean tells you it's just going to be words from then on and no more pictures and graphs, if you haven't been paying attention, you'd really end up pissed off.

Which pretty much approximated how I felt.

I was too entertained by Screaming Ned and the TSA kerfuffle that I had to read the final chapters five times and went further back to that fricking Venn Diagram (because seriously, what is UP with the Venn Diagrams YA?! #TFiOS) to make sense of what this book is trying to cut across.

I'm spoiler tagging my spoilery thoughts mostly because the discovery of what this book was about, I believe is half the fun.

You know what the other half of the fun is? Coming into this blind. So I'm sorry I wrote this but hey, you've gotten this far in the review so what's another paragraph?

You could take it for the testosterone humor it so generously gives or the charming love story from the standpoint of the besotted loser but what you can't help doing after finishing this is think. Andrew Smith won't coddle you with a clean, straightforward answer what this is about. He'll take you in a fun, winding seemingly senseless ride, tell jokes, sing a few songs, fall in love... Then throw you into the water without a life vest. You'll wonder what the f*ck happened, you'll feel like you've been stabbed in the back. Then when you've calmed down enough, you will take the pieces that still makes sound logic, fashion it into a makeshift raft to get yourself to a sensible shore.

If you enjoy that kind of self-abuse, like I obviously do, then come back here once you're done with this and we'll deal with it together.
And then it's always that one word that makes you so different and puts you outside the overlap of everyone else; and that word is so fucking big and loud, it's the only thing anyone ever hears when your name is spoken.

And whenever that happens to us, all the other words that make us the same disappear in it's shadow.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,483 reviews7,780 followers
March 26, 2014
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

Ryan Dean West (“Winger” to the guys on the rugby team) is a Junior at a boarding school. He’s different than the other boys, though. He’s only 14. This is the story of Ryan Dean’s life-altering year – dealing with first kisses, first bullies, first love, first loss – all while trying to remove himself from the stigma that is being the “little guy”.

“It’s always that one word that makes you so different and puts you outside the overlap of everyone else; and that word is so fucking big and loud, it’s the only thing anyone ever hears when your name is spoken.”

This book . . .

“It’s about love, and maybe, not having it.”

I have to admit I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Ryan Dean West for a good chunk of this book. He admits he’s a “skinny-bitch-ass” and, let’s face it, he’s a 14 year old boy. I’m quickly approaching the time when I will have one of those living in my house – I’m fairly certain I’m not always going to like him either. While reading, I kept wavering between a 3 Star or a 4 Star rating – thinking I’d end up with a 3.5. But then Ryan Dean changed and, although I knew what was coming, the book changed and I discovered that I’m not broken and I cried. And cried. And cried. At my desk, at work, on my lunch break. And all my frustrations with Ryan Dean from the first 90% of the book are erased, because HE’S A 14 YEAR OLD BOY FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!!

5 Stars.

“Crede quod habes, et habes” – If you believe in what you have, you’ll have it.”

Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,796 reviews485 followers
September 8, 2015
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life.

Why did I wait so long to read this book?!?! I could kick myself for putting this one off for so long. This book has to be one of the best YA novels that I have ever read. It is really that good. I read this book cover to cover in a single day and I can't think of a better way to spend a free day. Of course, I really didn't have much of a choice because once I started reading this story, I simply could not put it down.

Ryan Dean West is in many ways an average 14 year old boy. He feels like a loser quite often and he cannot keep his mind off of girls. One thing that sets Ryan Dean apart from the other students at his boarding school is that he is a junior despite the fact that he is only 14. Ryan Dean doesn't let anything stop him. He plays left wing for the school's rugby team, which is where he received the nickname "Winger."

Ryan Dean is living in the O-Hall this year because he got into a little bit of trouble the previous year. Opportunity Hall is the residence for trouble makers and Ryan Dean finds himself mixed in with a group of boys who aren't all exactly welcoming. He does make some new friends, finds himself in a few conflicts, and learns to deal with girls during the course of the story.

I loved the way this story was told. I absolutely love it when a story can incorporate humor without losing its focus. This book had a thread of humor on nearly every page and none of it felt forced. I never laughed out loud but I was amused for the majority of the story. I really like the fact that the story was not told simply through a narrative. The artwork that was used to help tell the story really worked well and helped bring Ryan Dean to life. I also really liked the way that his thoughts were shown in the story through plays and other creative methods.

This was one of those story that really grew on me. At first, Ryan Dean did seem like an awkward boy who was a little clueless. The more I read the more I grew to like Ryan Dean. He really was a good guy who sometimes lacked direction. I also grew to like his friends. This book really helped me to remember how difficult being a teenager can be. The ending of this book blew me away. I never saw it coming and I am so glad that nobody spoiled it for me.

I would highly recommend this book. It was funny and touching in a way that is rarely found in a single story. This is the first book by Andrew Smith that I have read but I am definitely planning to check out his other books soon.

Initial Thoughts
This has to be one of the best YA books that I have ever read. I found it to be both funny and touching. And that ending kind of blew me away. Wow!
44 reviews1 follower
September 14, 2013

OK, I never say this, but all I could think as I finished this book was, WTF? Seriously, what just happened?

There are two kinds of terrible books: the kind that you put down after a few pages, because the writing or characters or storyline are awful; and the kind like Winger, that draw you in with decent writing and engaging characters and an award-winning author - and then reward your trust with sloppy plotting and a completely out-of-the-blue ending.

I had a few problems with this book:
1. There isn't a plot so much as a series of episodes strung together - this happened, then something else happened, then something else - there's never really a sense of building to a climax, let alone to what actually happened.

2. It's full of comments like this: "...I really liked Joey. But I do mean that in a totally non-gay way." (p.304) What is that? To me it reads as homophobia with a very thin veil of acceptance over top.

3. Here's the big one: we have 428 pages of Ryan Dean drinking, fighting, playing rugby, and lusting over everything female, with little to no apparent character growth. There's a bit of tension between Joey and some football players, but nothing that leads you to believe it will cause anything apart from typical bullying behaviour. Then, on page 429, Joey is found beaten to death in the woods. Just like that. That leaves just 10 pages for the aftermath, in which one paragraph - one! - is devoted to the fate of the murderers (they apparently confessed and never came back to school), Ryan Dean cries, people try to comfort him and...that's it. The book is over.

It's like the entire book was supposed to be building towards that final confrontation between Joey and the football players - but
a) it didn't - I expected them to maybe get in a fight at some point, or for the football players to make some nasty comments, but that's it;
b) I wouldn't have even said the aggressors were major characters, and c) we didn't get to see the confrontation/climax. The main character wasn't even involved, apart from getting back to his dorm and thinking something weird was happening!

Everything in a story should happen for a reason. To me, Joey's death felt like such a random and unexpected event, and then it seemed like the author barely even touched on the consequences of such a terrible occurrence.

This book was very disappointing, and I don't recommend it to anyone.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lauren.
504 reviews1,632 followers
June 24, 2017
Check out this review on Lauren Reads YA, with photos of the book!

What a piece of crap.

Goodreads is full of 5-star reviews of this book, and I’m honestly not sure if we all read the same book.

The entire book is literally just what I imagine it’s like inside the head of a horny teenage boy. Ryan Dean is fourteen and constantly thinking about ‘hot’ girls, making gross comments at them, sometimes even inappropriately touching them when he gets the chance. Throughout the entire book he objectifies (nearly) every woman he sees. He is called out for this, and he acknowledges it, but no actual character development happens as a result. I’m fine with unlikeable characters as long as they undergo some development, but nothing of the sort happened to Ryan Dean. Still the same objectifying, oversexed, slightly homophobic ass he was before. And most of the ‘humor’ is based on all this problematic behaviour. Like, ha ha, boys will be boys, no homo, I am a pervert, ha ha ha.

There is no plot. It’s just Ryan Dean making his female best friend and love interest uncomfortable with his perverted comments, no-homoing his gay friend Joey, complaining about how hard his life is, and picking fights. Nothing happens until the last thirty pages or so, when The Big Thing happens and then it just ends. Probably so that the author could write a shitty, unnecessary sequel.

This is on lists as one of the best young adult LGBTQIA books out there, and I don’t see it. There is one openly gay side character, and he seems to be there just to make the main character go through whatever development he needed to go through. It’s exactly the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, but even more offensive. The fact that Joey is gay is mentioned constantly, as if that’s the only thing about him worth mentioning.

I’m one of the very few people who didn’t like this book, so I wouldn’t recommend it, but I guess it’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of book, so maybe you’ll love it. I just think the entire thing is wrong, and there are better books about the same issues that wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.
Profile Image for Caroline.
606 reviews806 followers
July 17, 2015
IF I'm being honest (when am I not honest haha?), I found Ryan Dean to be a huge knob. And that's putting it lightly. He spends half the book whining about how much he dislikes other people but is a huge hypocrite and doesn't see those same traits in himself. He was a dick. There were no proper descriptions of the characters, I don't really know what anyone looked like. I am sure the writing was meant to convey the inner machinations of a fourteen year old boys brain, but it just came of as misogynistic douchebaggery. There was not one description of a female character that didn't completely objectify them by calling them 'hot' or 'freaking hot' or 'hot in a moustached way'; I am sure it was meant to be funny and cute, but I just hated it.

The only character I liked was Joey because he was amazing and honest. I liked the story of this book as well and although it wasn't my favourite by a long shot, it was enjoyable to read. The writing was okay but I much prefer a little more description and a little less dialogue. That could just be me though, who knows.

I don't really have much to say about this book. I hated the ending because it just sort of ends, there's not really anything to it. It was probably supposed to make me cry or something but it just didn't fit with the rest of the story. It seemed like it had been done just for the shock value so I don't know.

I'm kind of upset that I didn't like this book because I had heard so many great things about it. Mainly, I disliked Ryan Dean as a person and that really diminished my enjoyment. I thought the illustrations were a really nice addition to the story; they were cute and fun, making it feel more real. I still enjoyed it though and think Andrew Smith is a talented writer- this book just didn't showcase it.
23 reviews2 followers
June 10, 2013
I agree with the reviewer who said there was a tragic twist way too late in the plot. For one, it was completely unneeded; the main theme of the story was already resolved and everything that followed did feel tacked on. It was also not in keeping with the rest of the book's tone. The narrator makes you believe you are in a comedy for about 400 pages when actually he's narrating a tragedy. Plus it's not really relevant to most of us cause that kind of thing basically doesn't happen. So while the rest of the book feels very near a real teenagers coming-of-age problems, this just made you realize the story was pure fiction. If a book wants to take on such an outlier event, I think it has to be about that from the start.

I had some more issues with the voice of the narrator. Ryan Dean in fact has it all: He's smart, he's brave, he's tough, he's liked by the best-looking girls, respected by all his team members etc. But he doesn't notice that. He keeps repeating what a loser he is. That's funny the first few times, but after a while it just gets embarrassing because how can such a smart kid not realize he's dead wrong about himself? The author makes the narrator build up and tackle all these virtual problems even though in fact there are none, and that makes the narrator sound, well, either whiny or completely self-obsessed and trying to hide his ego behind a thin veil of false modesty.

Finally, the "perverse" banter between Annie and Ryan Dean somehow didn't feel quite right until they actually got together. I thought it was much too open about sexuality. Teenagers are usually very shy when talking to the opposite gender. At least I don't know any fourteen- and sixteen-year-old boys and girls who talk to each other like that.

That said, I still enjoyed the book.
Profile Image for Jennifer Donnelly.
Author 38 books7,568 followers
September 30, 2015
I often get asked, "So what do you like to read?" The answer is "Anything, as long as the voice is there." I can't make it off the first page if it isn't. Just finished Winger, and man, is the voice ever there. Smith is such a good writer, and the funny, smart, confused, hornswoggling Winger -- aka Ryan Dean West -- is so alive on the page that I feel I've lived inside the head of a fourteen-year-old boy for a week. Smith, whose novel Grasshopper Jungle won a Printz Honor, is a new writer to me, and I will be devouring the rest of his work.
Profile Image for Debbie.
295 reviews127 followers
December 4, 2013

"I found out something about words. There are plenty of words I can put on paper, words I can see with my eyes and scribble with my hand, that I never had the guts to say with my mouth."

Since this year has started, I've only cried over two books. Winger by Andrew Smith is one of them. I'm not sure if it's Ryan Dean's moving, realistic voice that had me hooked, or if it was the way I could easily relate to the character and connect with them on such an intense level that made it so hard for me to accept that the book has ended. I felt for every character, even the assholes who I think I would have killed.

Winger has very short chapters which makes it almost impossible to put it down. Something is always happening with this book that makes readers either cry, laugh, or both. Throughout the novel Ryan Dean and have their moments especially with the teacher, I loved reading about Mrs. Singer and all of her crazy spells that she casts on Ryan Dean. But believe it or not, the protagonist was not my favourite character nor is he the reason for all my heartbreak and sobbing. That awards belongs to his best friend, Joey who, from the second he came into the story stole my heart and soul. Every obstacle he's faced with I was right there willing to jump into the novel and kill anyone who threatened him.  Andrew Smith has written a beautiful story about some of the shit that teenagers go through that they truly shouldn't. Over words. Over labels that should absolutely nothing but of course, mean everything to some people. I fell in love with this book from the very beginning and even now, while I write this review, I am still crying over the ending.

                                                                        What. A. Fucking. Ending.

With that being said, I'm not going to spoil it for you. It may shock you, this ending but it also may not but it did bring out emotions from my toughest critic friends and their hate for reading. I recommend everyone to read this book and hopefully fall in love with this as much as I have. It's beautiful. It's moving. It's relaxed and tense at just the right moments. It's books like this that keep me steadily reading YA novels with messages so great and moving that just thinking about them is bringing the tears back *cries for five more minutes*. Which is why Winger by Andrew Smith will always stay in my heart and be one of my favourite books from now on.

Profile Image for Snotchocheez.
595 reviews335 followers
June 7, 2016
4.5 stars (rounding up this time, to provide Andrew-Smith-rocks-my-world-happy-hyphenated symmetry for rounding down my 4.5 stars I gave his 100 Sideways Miles last year)

Slice through Andrew Smith's schtick (which, initially, started sticking in my craw with protagonist Ryan Dean West's umpteenth whiny "I am a skinny-ass loser" iteration, leading me to believe this should've been more appropriately titled WHinger instead) and what you'll find is a delightful, bittersweet, very-familar-yet-not-at-all story of a kid trying to find himself, with bright red blood (aptly intimated with RDW's thrashed visage on the cover) coursing through the novel's veins.

I didn't think I was going to "buy" this one at all. That setting: Pine Mountain Academy, a super-elite boarding school tucked into the Cascade Range of Oregon, where the ultra-privileged are flown in from near and far. (Our protag Ryan Dean...no, not Ryan...Ryan Dean...flies out from Boston, 2500 miles away, for crying out loud.) Oh yeah, that protag: Ryan Dean's 14 years old, in 11th grade, 142 pounds, and starts on the varsity rugby team. Huh?!?

It's a testament to Smith's artistry to make this far-fetched setup work. Somehow, not only do you believe this privileged, scrawny loser "winger" can scrum and convert tries with the best of them, by the end you're cheering the guy on, both on and off the field.

Of course, this isn't just some 430-page rugby story. Ryan Dean's got some life lessons to learn, and Pine Mountain's going to administer them. And staring at that bedraggled face on the cover, you know it's not going to be a casual stroll through campus grounds. The requisite bullies (conveniently housed in the miscreants "O-Hall" along with RDW, who's put there for hijacking a teacher's cellphone) the unattainable hotties, the freaky resident assistants, the pervy instructors (all perfectly described by Ryan Dean's combo of hilarious narration and comic book-style illustrations/pie charts) comprise a cut-above-the-rest story of coping with the travails of high school life that you're unlikely to forget.


(I've read some criticism (of this book, as well as the other Smith novel I read, 100 Sideways Miles) about the way Smith handles LGBT issues, of the casual way bullies sling the epithets, how there's the sage, token gay guy character . I'm not sure I agree with the criticism, although (especially after reading the decidedly more gay-centric We Are The Ants prior to this) I can understand it. Sad to say it, but here we are, at this writing, sixteen years into the 21st century, and still contending with bullying due to ones sexual orientation. Is Smith perpetuating the problem by including bullying in his novels? No, I just don't see it. He may not quite have the deft hand (at dealing with LGBT matters) as, say, Ants' Shaun Hutchinson, but addressing that the problem still exists (even with Smith's egalitarian, if hetero- slant) is much better than ignoring it, hoping it will go away on its own.)
Profile Image for Eunice (nerdytalksbookblog).
407 reviews130 followers
January 8, 2018
It will leave you with a gaping hole and a broken heart, like losing something you know you can never get back.

Winger is one of the best books out there and I am not even sugar-coating or exaggerating things. It is that kind of book that will crack you up and tear you up all at the same time. It was pure and unadulterated reading experience. It was well thought of, perfectly executed and was able to deliver. The book was very well-written. Ryan Dean West's voice will draw you in, will captivate you in ways you didn't expect. It was smooth as it was raw, it was honest and appropriate. It wrenched my heart and it would be impossible to fully recover from it. It was the perfect coming-of-age story that everyone should put in their books-to-read-before-I-die list, it does not only belong to one age bracket, but it is all encompassing. The characters were drawn not in the best light, but their flaws are what made them good.

It is not something you rush into, it is something you need to enjoy page by page. It is my first Andrew Smith and I can say that it didn't disappoint (if I am not being too obvious already). To be perfectly honest I have been warned enough about the ending, but I think no amount preparation can ever prepare me for the emotional wreckage that has befallen me. I was so heartbroken. The stigma the book depicted is not lost on me, it was very timely, something that should be addressed immediately.

I couldn't have picked a better book for the Anti-Bullying readathon. I just wished I have read it sooner.

I don't know if it is just me but this book had the Looking For Alaska vibe to it.

...nothing ever goes back exactly the way it was. Things just expand and contract. Like the universe , like breathing. But you'll never fill your lungs up with the same air twice. Sometimes, it would be cool if you could pause and rewind and do over. But I think anyone would get tired of that after one or two times.
Profile Image for Elena.
570 reviews181 followers
September 22, 2015

So here is the thing: A year or so ago, I accidentally spoiled myself and I truly believed I knew how this book would end. I am so glad I can say that I'm dumb and I totally misunderstood the "spoiler". :'D
The ending took this whole hilarious and entertaining story to a whole new level. I loved it!
Profile Image for Claudia Lomelí.
Author 8 books76.8k followers
July 1, 2017



EDIT: Un día después de terminar.

Review en español BECAUSE YES. Es que estoy súper desconcertada con el final de este libro. No lo puedo digerir. ¿Cómo POR QUÉ tuvo que pasarle eso a mi personaje favorito? No había RAZÓN, pero bueno, en la vida real cosas así pasan sin razón también :(. Se me salieron las lágrimas con ese capítulo, si lo leyeron, ya saben de cuál capítulo hablo. Yo presentía que algo le iba a pasar, lo presentía pero decía: Naaah, ¡Y BAM! Andrew Smith rompió mi corazoncito.

Me tardé en ponerle rating porque realmente no sabía ni qué pensar, todo el libro lo amé con locura, pero el final no me dio el "closure" que necesitaba, no me llenó, no me dejó alguna lección valiosa como yo esperaba. Además, tuve muchos issues con lo pervertido que era Ryan Dean, a veces era WAY TOO MUCH (ok mi review no está en español, está en spanglish). PERO AHHH, aún así amé a ese niño, su sentido del humor es LO MEJOR y en varias ocasiones me reí a carcajadas. Así que sí: Adoro a Ryan Dean, pero también quiero golpearlo, ojalá que en el segundo libro se le baje la calentura. Todas las mujeres eran "HOT" para él *sigh*.

EN FIN, a pesar de lo señalado arriba, no puedo NO ponerle 5 estrellas. El libro me gustó muchísimo, demasiado, se las merece, pero AHHHHHH. Quiero gritar.

Profile Image for Irmak.
400 reviews848 followers
April 6, 2016
Ekrana boş boş bakıp nereden başlasam diye düşünüyorum. Başını anlatsam sonunun burukluğunu atlatamadım, sonunu anlatsam başının eğlencesini kaçıracağım. Sanırım en baştan anlatmalıyım.
Ryan Dean West her ne kadar kendine durmadan eziğin tekiyim dese de (ki bunu diyip durması kitap boyunca beni delirtti ) kendisi gördüğüm en orjinal karakterlerden biriydi. Kitap boyunca öyle bir olay olduğu yok. Ryan Dean'in yürüyen hormon olmasından kaynaklı başına gelen komiklikleri, başına açtığı belaları okuyoruz. Ama olay olmamasına rağmen hiç sıkıcı değil. Aksine okurken gülüp eğlendiriyor :')
Hele aralara serpiştirilmiş o karikatürler, çizimler yok mu. Bayıldım.
Kitapta beni sıkan tek şey Ragbi kısımlarıydı, söz konusu herhangi bir şeyin maçıysa sıkılıyorum -_-
Ve sonu. Hiç beklemediğim bir şekilde bitti kitap. Yazar keşke sonlarında olan şeyleri böyle üstün körü anlatmayıp biraz daha işleseydi. Çok oldu bittiye gelmiş. Ama buna rağmen beni çok etkiledi.
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
February 5, 2017
I am speechless
This damn book.
I wasn't expecting to like this but I did really love it. Some of the characters were not my favourites. Also some aspects and the nonchalance associated with them bothered me. But other characters just captures my heart. It was such a light hearted funny read with a completely unexpected ending.
Profile Image for Bine.
664 reviews97 followers
April 1, 2018
Mal wieder ein seeeehr hoch gelobtes Buch, wo ich den Hype nicht vollkommen nachvollziehen kann. Für mich hatte es seine Höhen und Tiefen. Diese Rezension hört sich wahrscheinlich mal wieder negativer an, als ich das Buch um Endeffekt fand und auch bewerte, aber meine Erwartungen waren einfach sehr, sehr hoch.
Nun, ich hatte bereits ein ambivalentes Verhältnis zum Protagonisten Ryan Dean. Einerseits ist er irgendwie liebenswert und wahnsinnig witzig. Andererseits sehr redundant und einfach nicht der Loser, den er ständig in sich sieht. Eigentlich hat er das Buch über auch unverschämt viel Glück und nur auf ihm herumgetreten wird auch nicht. Im Gegenteil ist er oft viel gemeiner zu seinen Mitmenschen, als die es zu ihm sind. Naja, bis zum Ende hin, weiß ich nicht, ob er mir sympathisch geworden ist. Ebenso erging es mir mit Annie. Ich stehe ihr recht neutral gegenüber. Aber natürlich liebe ich Joey. Wie kann man Joey auch nicht lieben?
Was ich über die Charaktere denke, denke ich im Grunde auch über die Story. In der Hauptsache ging es ja nun um Ryan Dean und seine Annäherung an Annie und seine Probleme mit seinen Mitschülern. An sich eine gute Geschichte, die ich dank viel Humor und einem sehr unterhaltsamen Schreibstil gerne und schnell gelesen habe, die aber irgendwie... nichtssagend und ohne Moral (pointless) ist. Außerdem wurde oft auf krasse Dinge, die passieren werden in dieser und dieser Nacht, hingewiesen, auf die ich dann vergeblich gewartet habe oder die dann passiert sind, ich sie aber nie mit dieser großen und dramatischen Ankündigung in Verbindung setzen konnte... Darum war ich super positiv überrascht von dem Ende. Zwar wurde auch hierauf (schon im Klappentext) mehrmals hingewiesen, weshalb es keine große Überraschung für mich darstellte, aber es war einfach tragisch, extrem toll rübergebracht und einfach nur zerstörerisch. Ich habe es geliebt. Als ich gelesen habe, dachte ich, ok, das verdient doch die Höchstpunktzahl. Ich mochte auch wahnsinnig gern den Kontrast zwischen dem ernsten, brutalen Ende und der leichten Teenagestory zuvor, da es das reale Leben widerspiegelt. Selten habe ich so etwas Mutiges und Kunstvolles gelesen! Also einfach fantastisch!
Noch zum Schreibstil: Ich habe etwas gebraucht, um reinzukommen. Der Stil aus Ryan Deans Sicht ist wirklich sehr jugendlich und eigen, aber auch unfassbar authentisch. Wie gesagt, nicht ganz leicht zugänglich anfangs und die deutsche Fassung ist ebenfalls etwas holprig, weil grade Fäkalsprache etwas fälschlich übersetzt wurde, aber ok, man kommt irgendwann damit klar. Oh und dann noch der Rugby-Anteil... habe ich geliebt! Generell lese ich gerne über Sport, grade, wenn man die Leidenschaft daran spüren kann... und die war hier spürbar! Denn es ist durchaus nicht leicht, so etwas doch eher Visuelles oder eher Haptisches wie Sport in Worten rüberzubringen. Das ist hier toll gelungen. Gerade auch alles, was um das Match herum zu dem Sport gehört. Was es eben alles mit sich bringt, wenn man Rugbyspieler ist. Mehr solche Geschichten bitte!
Alles in allem ein Buch, das ich immer wieder gerne zur Hand genommen habe, auch wenn es mich insgesamt etwas enttäuscht hat. Ich will trotzdem auf jeden Fall mehr von Andrew Smith lesen... Irgendwann. Den zweiten Teil "Stand-Off" habe ich schon hier, aber erstmal habe ich eigentlich genug von den Charakteren... irgendwann dann mal.
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