Author: Andrew Smith
I enjoyed this book, it was funny and real and very genuine but the story takes an unexpected dark turn in the end.
Set in a boarding school for rich kids, the story follows a 14 year old boy named Ryan Dean West and his junior year living in O-Hall, the dorm for the “troublemakers” at their school. It’s mainly about how he deals with living without his friends, his love story with his best friend and about the new friends he makes. Ryan Dean is also in the school rugby team, so that’s brought up a lot, I don’t care much for anything sports related so those scenes were a bit meh. It’s a very simple plot and very easy to read.
Since the plot is so simple, the execution has to be excellent for it to be a good book. The writing was good, told in first person by a 14 year old, it was fun. As he is younger than the rest of his peers, it was interesting to see what he thought of them and how they treated him. However, the protagonist was very repetitive – he went on and on and on about how he is a loser and also about how every single girl he sees is “so hot” which was okay in the start, but it got irritating midway through.
Something I didn’t particularly understand was how midway through the book, everyone started to love Ryan Dean – he hadn’t done anything special but he suddenly became extremely popular and attractive and lovable. It was very random – especially after reading monologues of him telling anyone who would listen what a loser he is.
The main character was 2 years younger than everyone else. Him and his two best friends were quite… odd, to put things lightly. Nonetheless, they were fun to read about and all three of them definitely grow and mature into very different people by the end of the book. Ryan Dean’s new roommate was a senior, he was one that grew on me as the book progressed. Annie, Ryan Dean’s best friend and crush was a nice character, but towards the end got a bit frustrating because she was trying so hard to distance herself from her feelings.
Of all the cast of characters, my favourite was Ryan’s new best friend, a boy named Joey who was gay. Everyone was very accepting of him, but Ryan repeatedly reminded the readers about how he wasn’t gay and that his love for Joey was purely platonic. I don’t know if this was done to make the book funnier or just to highlight how immature Ryan Dean was but it was a little bit irritating.
I liked the pacing of the book and how the story flowed very naturally. It was a good read. Will I be reading the sequel? Not immediately, maybe not at all. The ending really put me off the book. I’m trying not to spoil the book but it’s very random, unexplained and just unnecessary. The issue leading to the ending could have been better resolved. If the book ended with the prom night where everything was happy, I would have loved it. Yes, I know life isn’t always happy but the ending here was just too random for me.
I do recommend this book, it’s a fun read, especially if you enjoy boarding school stories!