From Goodreads.com: “Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. 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.”
I took my class to the school library to choose books, and our librarian hands me this book and says, I bet you can’t get through the first three pages without laughing out loud. I took the book skeptically, but he was dead on: I laughed aloud within two. Ryan’s voice is wry, compelling, and at times, heartbreaking. After I read this (staying up way too late when I should have been sleeping–or grading) I went and bought three more copies for my classroom. I have a few rugby players in class and they argued over who got to read it first, so I had to make sure I had some spares. My non-rugby players also enjoyed the read.
This was a perfect book for many of my tenth graders, but because of the prolific f-bombs, may not be great for some students who are not ready for explicit language. The storyline also has mature themes: I cried like a baby at the ending and was utterly devastated to learn of the heartbreaking trauma Ryan experienced.
I think one of the reasons I loved this book so much was the sensitivity Ryan exhibited–here’s a young man with feelings and friendships and frustrations. He also happens to be a rugby player at a private school who is trying to navigate being a friend, being a teenager, being a son, and being a (potential) boyfriend. All of the minor characters seemed fleshed out and real as well.
I also just discovered there will be a second book in this series, which will come out in January 2015, where we will see Ryan in his senior year. I know I’ll be sure to check that book out before my librarian has to recommend it to me.
Written by Kate, VP Secondary Schools, PCTELA k1a9t7e5 @ gmail.com