I am finally reviewing a book I actually read this year! However… I finished it in May, so here’s to the (almost) last shorter-than-normal review. I borrowed a copy of this book from a teacher, so I don’t have any notes or ability to flip back through it and remember my thoughts better; I’ll still give this my best effort at detail, though!
As you may remember, Winger was one of my favorite books. It’s not a book that someone like me typically goes for as Ryan Dean West is not typically the type of character I enjoy reading. However, something about Andrew Smith’s ability to craft him as this realistic, perfectly imperfect guy just struck a chord with me. Winger also ripped my heart out unexpectedly, which always scores points with me.
When I discovered that Winger had a sequel, I had to read it right away. Fortunately, the teacher I was working with let me borrow it, and I got to reading right away. I got through the first third no problem, but then it took me several months to pick it up again. When I finally did, I binged the last part in a day or two. I worried that I had outgrown Ryan Dean, but I was delighted to discover that Andrew Smith still had the ability to make me laugh out loud and cry within mere pages of each other.
Stand-off explores a lot of themes related to grief and especially avoiding grief. Ryan Dean goes through a lot of things he can’t quite explain, and this book is about him trying to understand himself again and dealing with the fact that he doesn’t want to be miserable for the rest of his life. I completely empathize with NATE (the Next Accidental Terrible Experience) because I experienced the same thing after one of my friends passed away in high school. I thought this novel was excellently crafted, and it is a great follow-up to Winger. However, it lacked the same sparkle, and I found myself missing that all-encompassing enthusiasm for the book. It had an overly-satisfying ending, in that everything wrapped up with a pretty, little bow, and the resolution seemed forced to me. After the unexpectedly world-shattering ending of Winger, I could have stood an ending less-than-ideal than this one. It felt like Smith really wanted to end this story, and he wrote out a resolution that would leave no room for speculation or further wondering. I loved the ending of Winger without the idea of a sequel, so having a sequel that perfectly wrapped up the story I’d loved so much was fairly disappointing.
Overall: As with Winger, I don’t recommend this to younger readers. Ryan Dean West may be fifteen years old, but I doubt I’d let my kid read it at fifteen. Use discretion because there is a lot of language and Ryan Dean West is a teenage boy who thinks like a teenage boy, but, unlike how I usually feel, it all contributes to the characters and the story overall. Stand-off wasn’t as brilliant as Winger, but it’s still worth reading if you loved the first book.
Read the review on my blog: