Info: 439 pages, hardback, Contemporary YA, published May 14, 2013
Synopsis: 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.
Why I Picked This Book: My sister and I attended NTTBF this year, and it was amazing. We met the coolest book rep ever, Mary from Simon and Shuster. She gave my sister this book as part of their ‘Tell Me What You Like to Read, Leave with a Free Book!’ promo at the festival. Since this book has been on my TBR for a while, I read it immediately after her.
First Impressions: This cover is striking (Get it? Striking? He was in a violent encounter.) It shows immediately the kind of position Ryan Dean West has in the world: not on the top. I love the sharp focus, intense colors, everything about this cover.
What I Liked: This might be the shortest WIL I’ll ever write. Illustrations. That’s about it. It ends as a kind of ‘issue book’, but I don’t even know, you guys.
What I Didn’t Like: EVERYTHING. I HATED THIS BOOK. My notes while reading this are covered in questions marks and exclamation points. Here’s a glimpse.
-pg 64: I’m giving this book until page 100 to interest me/not remind me of Looking for Alaska. This makes me never want a 14 year old son.
-Can we stop with over-hyphenated-sentences-that-make-me-want-to-scream?!?! (Seriously, y’all. Like entire paragraphs of them. AUGHHHH.)
-SO SICK of literally every female character being described with her hotness level EVERY TIME THEY ARE INTRODUCED.
pg 64: “so-not-hot-you-should-never-look-at-her-when-you-have-a-hangover Mrs.Singer”
pg 64: “scary-hot Megan Renshaw”
pg 65: “ultrahot Annie…Annie came running up behind me, fantastically perfect in her school shirt.”
-Do we have to constantly describe everyone’s outfits?! Did I accidentally grab a printed copy of My Immortal?!?!
I don’t know if I have enough words to describe the anger I felt at my sister for making me finish this book. The number of times she told me “The last 40 pages make it so worth it!!” is probably in the double digits. She was wrong.
The synopsis makes it sound like this big ordeal happens in the middle of the book and we see the aftermath. Wrong. I’m assuming this is what we get in the sequel, but I don’t hate myself enough to put myself through another book by Andrew Smith to see if I’m right. To be fair, the main character did change…after 400 pages of the same sexist, self-absorbed drivel. It’s written as stream of consciousness, so we get every. single. thought. of every. single. moment. It felt like so much lead up for an ending that felt tacked on at an effort to be poignant and meaningful. Didn’t work.
Rating and Recommendations: If you have someone that you hate, make them read this book. If you’re looking to gauge how much you hate yourself, see how far you can get in this book. Seriously, just read Looking for Alaska. It’s way better.
Final Thoughts: I’m never even glancing at another book by this author. He’s been hailed for this book, and I gave him a chance after the whole ‘writing girls is hard’ debacle. That’s a week and 400+ pages I’ll never get back.
Sound off in the comments: What did you think of this book? Am I alone in hating it so vehemently?