Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Smith, Andrew. 2013. WINGER. New York, NY: Simon and Shuster. ISBN 9781442444928 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]


Words are important.  Ryan Dean West, at 14, is the youngest in the Junior class at his boarding school and the youngest on his rugby team.  Ryan narrates this story through his words and occasionally his comic book style illustrations. 

Ryan, who has been placed in the dorm for troublemakers, must navigate the complex social world of a board school with the words that define him, 14 year old.

“It’s always that one word that makes you so different … It’s the only thing that anyone ever hears when your name is spoken… all of the other words that make us the same disappear in its shadow.”

Throughout WINGER, Ryan is for the most part able to overcome his label.  Friends, the rugby team, and even girls are able to see beyond his young age.  However, the same does not hold true for everyone in the book.

While through the book and narration, Ryan Dean West is able to break through the labels and see “the words that make us the same,” it is those who are not able to do so that shape the outcome of the book. 

What begins as a story filled with teenage exploits at a boarding school, ends in a way that shakes the characters (and possibly the readers) to the core. 

Throughout the book it would be powerful to have discussions with readers about labels. What are the words that we use to label each other?  Do they lead to inclusiveness or exclusion?  Where is their power in this story?  Do they have that power in your life and school?  Did their views change during the reading?

Looking for Alaska
A Separate Piece

By Emily Bredberg

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