Ryan Dean West has a lot going on… First of all, Ryan Dean — yes, that’s his first name — is a 14 year old junior. Even though he attends an elite prep school, or perhaps because he attends an elite prep school, being two to three years younger than the other students in his grade causes a lot of resentment. Aside from being called a baby all the time, he also has to deal with the fact that he landed himself in “O Hall” [the residence hall for trouble makers] and is stuck rooming with a psychopath named Chas. Luckily, Chas is a rugby teammate and, therefore, has *some* reason not to randomly kill Ryan Dean in his sleep. Other than Chas, Ryan Dean’s biggest problem is girls. His age complicates dating a bit, since he would rather date people in his grade and not people his own age. Unfortunately, though it’s pretty clear that Ryan Dean is love with his best friend, Annie, she seems to think of him as a kid. And Megan, who clearly has the hots for him, is Chas’ girlfriend — which may end up giving Chas the excuse he needs to kill Ryan Dean for real. Luckily, Ryan Dean has another best friend, Joey, to help him through all the craziness and to try to talk some sense into him as needed. Although Ryan Dean occasionally feels awkward about the fact that Joey is gay — wondering, for example, if people will think he is gay by extension — he loves Joey like a brother and is [sometimes begrudgingly] grateful for his advice.
Even though the plot is not at all similar, I found that this book reminded me of I Love You, Beth Cooper. Ryan Dean, despite being a “jock,” somehow reminded me of nerdy Dennis Cooverman. Maybe it was his superior book smarts paired with a lack of interpersonal intelligence? One could probably make the argument that the connection in my mind stems from the fact that Ryan Dean got progressively more banged up throughout the story (just like Dennis), but I think I made the connection before the injuries started to pile up. I think that the overall humorous tone, realistic dialogue, and writing style were similar enough for my brain to make a link (though I feel compelled to warn readers that Winger had a very sad twist ending). No matter the reason, nevertheless, I think Larry Doyle fans are likely to be Andrew Smith fans as well.