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.
Ok, I have to be honest. Despite all the good things I’d heard about this book I’d never got around to read it because I hate the cover. I don’t know I really don’t like it, even though now that I’ve read it, it’s so accurate. But, yeah, in the end curiousity got the best of me, and I’m glad because I really enjoyed the hell out of this book.
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 its shadow.
This is basically a really long monologue, in which Ryan Dean tells you everything that happens to him during his junior year, and everything that doesn’t really happen but he imagines happening before what is really going to happen, happens. I know that’s messed up but it’s funny. The most recurring thought he has is: “I’m such a loser“. But actually, Ryan Dean is anything but a loser. He’s kind of a troublemaker, although he’s not the one seeking troubles, he just always finds himself in the middle of it all. He’s 14, whereas everyone else is 16, so he’s considered the little kid by everyone. He wouldn’t care that much either, but the main problem isthat his best friend, Annie, whom he’s so in love with, thinks he’s an adorable little kid too; and that doesn’t work much in his favor.
Okay, well . . . yeah, I didn’t really say “Shut the fuck up,” because I honestly don’t cuss. But I wanted to. I think, in reality, I raised my finger to my lips and said, “Shhhhh,” so she wouldn’t say anything else as we spiraled into the center of that wish circle.
But as he lands himself in O-hall, sharing a room with the bully of the school, Ryan Dean finds himself into even more troubles, getting into fights, drinking for the first time, and so on. He’s also in the rugby team, and I loved the camaraderie between those boys; they’re always teasing each other, cussing at each other, and all those things boys do to show each other their love, but don’t even try to touch one of them or the whole team will beat the hell out of you. That’s especially evident with Joey, he’s gay, and even if everyone on the team makes stupid comments about him, they’re all ready to fight for him. He’s really a nice guy, and soon him and Ryan Dean become pretty good friends. I really liked that there was a filter between everything that came through Ryan Dean’s head and what he actually said. He wasn’t comfortable with Joey at first but in his mind he scolded himself for being stupid about it, and soon it wasn’t an issue anymore. And I think that was pretty realistic, and really nice to read.
“You know, 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.”
Obviously, Ryan Dean makes lots of mistakes, he lets other influence him and that often turns out badly; but he also grows up a lot. He thinks he’s insecure, and a loser, but in reality he’s really brave and funny, what he needs is a bit of confidence. I loved the character development. I also loved Ryan Dean’s diagrams, and illustrations, and his voice was so funny. It was all funny until it wasn’t anymore… THAT ENDING WAS SO HEARTBREAKING AND RUDE!