Title: Stand-Off (Winger #2)
Author: Andrew Smith
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published: September 8th 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Synopsis from Goodreads:
It’s his last year at Pine Mountain, and Ryan Dean should be focused on his future, but instead, he’s haunted by his past. His rugby coach expects him to fill the roles once played by his lost friend, Joey, as the rugby team’s stand-off and new captain. And somehow he’s stuck rooming with twelve-year-old freshman Sam Abernathy, a cooking whiz with extreme claustrophobia and a serious crush on Annie Altman—aka Ryan Dean’s girlfriend, for now, anyway.
Equally distressing, Ryan Dean’s doodles and drawings don’t offer the relief they used to. He’s convinced N.A.T.E. (the Next Accidental Terrible Experience) is lurking around every corner—and then he runs into Joey’s younger brother Nico, who makes Ryan Dean feel paranoid that he’s avoiding him. Will Ryan Dean ever regain his sanity?
First line: “Everyone kept telling me, “You need to draw again, Ryan Dean. You need to draw…””
My Thoughts (contains spoilers)
This story continues following the life of Ryan Dean, now a fifteen year old senior at Pine Mountain boarding school. After the death of his best friend, Ryan Dean isn’t coping well. He’s dealing with anxieties and is in constant fear of a monster of his own creation, named Nate – the Next Accidental Terrible Experience. He’s drifting away from his friends and on top of everything else, he’s just been made captain of the rugby team, taking over Joey’s old position as Stand-Off (or Fly Wing).
I want to start off by talking about the characters in this book. I was actually pretty disappointed when I found out that Chas and the other senior boys had graduated and were no longer going to be in this series because, even though Chas was a total asshole, I liked him and thought he definitely added something to the story – whether that be humour or fear.
Okay, time to mention the Abernathy – Ryan Dean’s twelve year old claustrophobic roommate. At first, the kid annoyed me but he did grow on me, just like he did with Ryan Dean. Even though Sam was a huge pain to begin with, I love that Ryan Dean realised he had a real friend in him and by the end of the story they had both accepted and were there for each another.
Annie’s not in this book as much as she was in the last one but I understand that this was largely to do with the fact that Ryan Dean was going through a lot of things which he didn’t feel like he could tell other people. To be honestly though, I didn’t miss her involvement too much. The thing that completely gets on my nerves about Annie is that she always scolds Ryan Dean, even for the littlest of things.
I still haven’t made my mind up about Nico yet. I mean, I guess I like him but he wasn’t a stand out character for me. I also guessed that the thing Joey was supposed to tell Ryan Dean was that he was in love with him, I felt like it was maybe a bit obvious. It still made me upset though, because Joey was such an amazing character and I AM STILL NOT OVER WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM. The scene where Nico shows Ryan Dean where his family scattered Joey’s ashes was so touching. Ugh, I’m such an emotional wreck when it comes to books and fictional characters.
Very real feelings for very fictional characters :((((((
One thing that did shock me in this book was the whole Spotted John and Seanie relationship which I though was brilliant, especially since Seanie teases Ryan Dean about coming out of the closet all the bloody time. I mean seriously, how funny was it when Ryan Dean walked in on them and they were both high plus covered in hickeys. Oh god, awkwarddddddd.
I’m not going to lie, I was expecting more from this book. It didn’t exactly have a very strong plot line but what it definitely did do well was characterisation. Ryan Dean changes so much from book one and the way it’s done is very realistic. Ryan Dean imagining up this Nate character portrayed his complete state of paranoia and anxiety, something which I actually felt terrible about for him. Especially when he’d have those horrible night terrors and Sam wouldn’t let him shut the bloody window.
The real stand out message for me in this book is; everyone needs people in their life – friends, family, maybe even a partner. People can make you feel like crap but they can also bring you out of some of the darkest moments in your life. I love the fact that it’s Ryan Dean’s friends who help him get better and sort out some of his issues, it really portrays the overwhelming power of friendship.
I know that there is going to be a third book in this series and I think it comes out at some point next year. This next one will be quite interesting because Ryan Dean is going to be at university and possibly giving up rugby? (He probably won’t though. He’ll end up joining the uni team, I bet). This series has actually made me quite interested in rugby, funnily enough. Anyway, it will be good to see him in a different setting and witness how he deals with uni life at the age of sixteen. The one thing I hope for the next book is that he keeps in contact with Sam and Nico because they helped him through a lot in this book and vice versa.