[Review + Rant] Winger by Andrew Smith: Problematic Literature for the Next Generation of Bros

Brooke Banks | 12:00 AM | | | | | |

I didn't think this would be the book for me but it was free on RivetedLit.com and gave it a shot. I was bored, couldn't write, and it didn't sound bad, just not my typical fare. Male protagonists are rare in my read list so I figured I could branch out and kill two birds with one stone.

I should have stopped while I was ahead.
Staring at the ceiling would've been a better way to spend my time.

But did I? No. Now I'm pissed.

Series: Winger #1
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Format: Ebook, 440 pgs.
Source: Free on RivetedLit.com
Rating: 1 Star
Recommendable? Absolutely NOT
CW: Homophobia & Violence
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.

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Cannot and will not recommend this to anyone ever. 


Cultivating The Next Generation of Bros

First, it's blah. It's a whiny little baby boy complaining about girls and making a disgusting ass of himself. For whatever reason, his dreams come true. Especially his wet dreams.

His life is soooo awful, except being super rich, unaffected by his parent's being checked out, a genius, a star rugby player,  has popular friends, girls want him and thinks he's a loser despite ALL of this.

Zero self-awareness which is typical of 14 year olds. If they're not taught better. Winger propagates privileged white male angst by ignoring what he's lucky for and his quest to be a man teaches him nothing except how to ask his dream girl out and stop making out with another guy's girlfriend. And being a perv is cool, girls secretly love it.

How about no?

Also, that dude on the cover? So not what Ryan Dean's claims to be. If he looks like THAT, he can't even claim the skinny, ugly kid card.

Sadly, I'm  used to such bullshit so I rolled my eyes and continued on. Maybe he would change? Girlfriend, no.

Instead, it got worse.

Punish The Gays & Teach The Sexist Pig A Lesson

Joey the rugby team captain is gay. He came out last year and everyone's cool with it. Except one douche. I'll talk more about him later. There's also apparently "a lot" of guys that are gay at this school but on the down low apparently.

Joey's perfect guy and not a gay stereotype except Have I Mentioned I Am Gay? Basically, Ryan Dean goes on and on about Joey being gay and he's totes cool with it (no, really really) but we don't get to see Joey express his sexuality as a gay teen.

Most of the book is little melodramatic BS but there's gotta be something real to teach the boys a lesson.

So how about...homophobic assholes come from somewhere else to attack Joey. Yeah, that's great and have another dude injured in saving him because no-homo bromance.

But that's still not enough to make Ryan grow up. So we have the homophobic douche who's really a closet case beat Joey to death on the best night of Ryan Dean's young life.

Ryan Dean goes silent afterwards, finds a second home at Annie's house, and learns an important life lessons.

Bury Your Gays.

Girl on girl actions is great, especially a threesome but lesbians and bisexuals don't exist.

The world revolves around his dick.

Ryan Dean's on his way to being a great bro. Yaaaaaaay.

How the hell this has over 4 stars on Goodreads, I have no idea. No wait, I do but I can't fathom being one of those high rating reviewers. 

Suggested Reading:

The whole article is fantastic and everyone should read it. But here's the most pertinent part I want to quote because...well, you'll see.

What Led to Lexa: A Look At The History of Media Burying Its Gays

And that is, of course, your right. No one is saying that an artist shouldn’t be allowed to kill a gay or lesbian character. I want to make that clear, since whenever any piece of media is criticized at any time for any reason, the immediate response from someone on the internet is to call it censorship. What I’m saying is that pretending your work exists outside of trends or political context is disingenuous.

Even created with the best of intentions, no piece of art exists in a vacuum. Everything is influenced by the context it is both created in and consumed in, which is why every piece of media is unavoidably political. And every piece of media, no matter how well-intentioned, is going to be part of a trend. The problem is less in Lexa’s specific death, or Tara’s, or Denise’s, or any of the countless others. The problem is that all of those deaths, and more, are just another check in a very, very long tally; a tally that has been building since before most of us were even born.

I loathe the homophobes are secretly gay myth, which is often repeated even by otherwise progressive people.  I'm not saying it doesn't occur at all, but every time a hate crime happens against the QUILTBAG community this gets trotted out without proof or second thought. It's the leading cause of homophobia as far as media is concerned. Here's another fantastic article that tackles the issue way better than I ever could,
Are Most Homophobes Repressed Homosexuals? with two quotes because I couldn't pick one:

It would be absurd to argue that all white racists secretly think they are black or want to be black.

Another persuasive aspect of this myth is that it reinforces the widespread cultural fantasy that heterosexual men are unfazed by the possibility of same-sex desire.

Rage with me or rejoice you've never read this book in the comments below. 


  1. Very interesting review. Do you think the author was being preachy in his writing - do you think he was aware that elements were problematic and put them in to prove a point?

    1. I wish, but it's played straight with no self-awareness or reflection shown in regards to this trope. Just Winger waxing about life being precious and Joey too good of a person after his death.


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