I have been struggling to get stuck into my YA reading pile – life got in the way. It was therefore with real enjoyment that I found myself caught up in the ongoing adventures of Ryan Dean West in Stand Off, the follow up book to Winger. Ryan Dean is a rugby playing teenager acclimatising to and coping with life at a US boarding school. Being a teenager is a time of change and even confusion: for Ryan Dean it’s even harder as he’s skipped a couple of years at school and his classmates are two years older than him.
Winger covers Ryan Dean’s early years at boarding school and Stand Off covers his final year, before he leaves for college. By his senior year, Ryan Dean has matured both physically and mentally but he still has a lot of emotional baggage to deal with. The events of the previous year at school hang over him and he struggles to cope. He doesn’t always go about things the right way but his heart is in the right place. He is also a funny and amusing story teller, peppering his story with his often whacky thoughts and his beautifully drawn cartoons.
Now, I have to confess, I am a rugby fan so I really enjoy Ryan Dean’s discussions about rugby: its laws (Ryan Dean taught me rugby has laws not rules), its players (his description of the role of the scrum half is second to none) and the game itself. However, you do not need to be a rugby fan to enjoy the book – rugby is a part of the story but not the whole of the story. When Ryan Dean talks about rugby he makes sure he doesn’t talk over the reader’s head so that is is easy to understand and enjoy what he is saying.
As I mentioned, rugby is not the whole story – there is romance, friendship, acceptance, understanding as well as plenty of school and teenage boy dramas to keep you fascinated and amused (perhaps even a little bit disgusted at times because teenage boys can be quite disgusting!). The book makes you think as it makes you laugh and, whilst there is sadness here with the sad events that took place in Winger impacting this story, when you close this book you do so with a smile on you lips.
The only thing I’m not wild about are the book covers – but once you open the books you get lost in them and the covers are irrelevant.