Review: Wonder Woman (the movie)

First off, I have to mention that I never watch movies. I’m not exaggerating much—the last movie I saw in the theater was The Hunger Games (that would be the first one), which of course I enjoyed because it was true to the book. I rarely watch them at home, too. There are reasons for this. Second of all, I must also mention that although I quite like graphic novels*, I have never particularly been into the superhero genre. So I went to this movie as a fresh and naïve viewer. I’m not going to give a plot summary here, but instead just look at some of the aspects of it.

I did enjoy the movie. When I do get around to watching a movie, if it’s any good, it totally sucks me in and makes me feel like I’m in some twilight zone for a while even after it’s over, and usually also makes me cry at some point near the end. This one did all that. Additionally, it made me want to go out and learn to fight, something that hasn’t happened since I binge-watched Buffy.

I didn’t even mind (too much) the fact that Wonder Woman was nearly naked most of the time, because on her home island, at least it made sense—why not be comfortable? There were no men around to harass all the women. Confining clothes aren’t great for physical training. And I was surprised, but her sort of weird and ostensibly ineffectual weapons actually worked for me in the movie. I mean, it’s hard to imagine a lasso being too impressive, or a bullet-repelling shield and bracelets, being all that powerful, but I thought it was okay. Plus, there was a fancy sword added to the mix.

However, I have the same issues with it that I very often have with movies (one of the main reasons I prefer TV shows to movies): character development and story. There usually isn’t time in a couple hours to do justice to both. First, while Diana/Wonder Woman herself and the pilot Steve Trevor were developed well enough for me, the supporting characters were flat. Three diverse characters went along with Steve and Diana to the front, a Scot, an Arab, and a Native American, and they weren’t developed at all. They were just sort of there. The same goes for the secretary, who was funny, though.

And the story. There were several points in the movie where I didn’t know why certain things were happening. Take, for instance, the infamous No-Man’s-Land scene, where Diana makes her way across the area between the Allies and German trenches by simply walking with her shield out. She blocks all their gunfire with said shield. First she’s by herself, but then Steve and his buddies follow. For some reason, the soldiers keep shooting at her rather than targeting them. By the time she gets there, all the soldiers are so freaked out that they run off. Now, I didn’t get why they were so freaked out. She wasn’t even attacking—just blocking the bullets. I’d think they’d more likely be transfixed and think she was a god or something magical. There were also some pivotal moments where all the characters seemed to understand what was going on even though I didn’t think it had been communicated.

I guess a big question is whether or not it was really feminist. I’m not sure. Though it is definitely a good thing to have a woman director breaking in in Hollywood—I don’t doubt that. But the movie itself is about female strength—but not normal female strength, just unnatural, female demi-god strength. Does that really empower the rest of us mortals? I’m not sure again. I mean, I suppose in the context of the superhero genre, it does. Most of the male superheroes out there have super-human traits and we still assume they’re celebrating men’s strength. But a bigger problem for me was Diana’s naïvety. She comes across as very simple and idealistic at times, not grasping what’s in front of her. I know she was sheltered from the real world, but still, it made me a little uncomfortable.

Anyway, I guess it’s up for people smarter than me to decide.


* Fables, I’m so sad you’re gone, even if you did get a little weird at the end

Review: Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

Such a Pretty Girl isn’t a long book, but it packs a lot in a little package. The back cover copy makes it sound like a dark and disturbing story—fifteen-year-old Meredith’s father is being released from prison after serving just three years of his eight-year sentence—and it is a dark and disturbing tale. Her father’s coming home, putting her in great danger. We don’t know exactly why, but we get a sense that something is very wrong. (Actually, kudos to the back cover-writer, because it actually really triggers your curiosity without revealing much, all while managing to remain wholly true to the book.)

Meredith’s father went to prison for abusing several boys in the neighborhood, and everyone hates her for it. She’s a pariah. But it’s even worse than that, because he also assaulted her. And she knows she’s not going to be safe when he returns.

Now, technically, he isn’t moving back into Meredith’s apartment with her and her mom. Because he’s not supposed to be alone with Meredith. No, but he’s got an apartment in the same complex. Officially, he’s reformed and being let out for that and good behavior. But she’s not a naive twelve-year-old anymore and she knows he’s going to come after her again. After all, there were no kids in his prison, so of course he behaved.

Meredith’s mom is a serious piece of work. She is infatuated with Meredith’s father, who she’s been with since she was twelve and he was sixteen. She is basically an overgrown child herself, unwilling to share him. It’s hard to tell if she simply doesn’t believe what he did to Meredith or if she’s only jealous. She doesn’t take the law seriously, either—Meredith’s father is over at their apartment all the time, and she leaves him there while Meredith is home. When Meredith confronts her about this, her response is the classy, “You won’t let it go, will you?” Some people might find it hard to believe a mom could be like this, but it’s realistic—there really are women out there like that. I went to school with a girl who had a mom like that.

One of the obvious questions is, why doesn’t the law do more to protect Meredith? Well, this is one of the problems with the law, really. It’s pretty rubbish at protecting people. People don’t get arrested just for having the potential for violence (which is right, of course). But sometimes the threat of violence is so great that you really do know it’s inevitable, yet still nothing can be done. In Meredith’s case, her mother definitely could do more to protect her, but she is so addicted to him that she doesn’t care. And definitely the people responsible for the conditions of his release could have made them far more restrictive, but the authorities aren’t always on the victim’s side. For instance, a woman with the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence told me about a case where a man drove over his wife’s legs with the car—he was trying to kill her but missed. What happened to him? He was offered and plead guilty to driving with a revoked license. That was it. So although it’s unlikely Meredith would have been left so completely unprotected, it is feasible.

Fortunately, Meredith does have some allies in the complex. One is her boyfriend, Andy, and the other is a former cop (the one who arrested her father) named Nigel. Andy was one of Meredith’s father’s early victims, and his mother is out to get him for it. Andy wants to help protect her from her father, but he has his own life to live and sort of abandons her right after her father arrives. Nigel helps her figure out her options. She also has a grandma in town, but she’s not exactly aggressive in trying to ensure Meredith’s protected. It’s a little odd that she doesn’t try harder, but again, totally feasible. Not all families are functional.

In the end, Meredith solves the problem herself. The book wasn’t exactly a joy to read, but it was very satisfying to watch a girl deal with a bad situation. After you finish it, you will want to wash your hands. The subject matter is icky.

Life Gets in the Way

I am really bummed because I haven’t been able to do any writing (unless you count blog posts) for a couple weeks and won’t be able to for another couple. I’m taking a certificate course in data science that’s wrapping up with a huge, time-consuming project. On top of that, I’m trying to finish painting my entire downstairs so I can get an electrician out here to install new heaters (not that I need them right now…) and a few other electrical things. On top of all that, I have critiquing I have to do and places I need to be.

Not to mention that it’s supposed to be a holiday weekend and I technically have tomorrow off, but I still have to do some work from home.

Life is so hard sometimes. Wah.

Anyway, it’s weird to not be writing and I feel sort of like I’m forgetting to do something fundamental, like eat.

As soon as my scheduled clears up again, I’m getting right back to Sadie Speaks. I’m in the process of incorporating some more  feedback on it from one of my critique partners. I did a first pass through but there are some larger issues to address. Still, I’m planning to have it ready before the PNWA conference, which is in the second half of July, because I plan to pitch it there. This will be the first time I pitch it. I’ve kind of gotten sick of pitching the first one, Finding Frances, although I do have three full requests out on it right now—one with an editor at Sourcebooks and two with agents. I feel like it’s run its course. With Sadie Speaks, I’ll be querying people I already queried with Finding Frances. But hopefully someone will be interested in it and then will also read Finding Frances and feel tremendous regret at not recognizing its brilliance the first time around.

Sure. Here’s a picture of my downstairs, which is a vast improvement over the last picture I shared. There are many hours of work poured into it. The contractors took down that tacky little half wall, resurfaced the ceiling, and installed new drywall as well as replaced the subfloor around the walls (so it doesn’t smell anymore (!)). I’ve also primed everything, including the ceiling. So much work, and now I still have to take all that paint out of those four cans and apply it to the walls and ceiling. Have you ever painted a ceiling? It sucks. Note that the chandelier in the foreground of the photo is so going away. The box on the floor has its replacement. I can’t wait.

remodeling the downstairs

And here’s a picture of Marvin, for no reason.

marvin on a stepstool

Review: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die (also called Now Is Good, though I prefer the former) is really a remarkable book. I’ve never read another one like it. It’s definitely the kind of story that stays with you. There are other books about teenagers who are dying, but this one feels different.

Tessa is sixteen and she has terminal leukemia. She has months left to live and is struggling with what to do with herself in her time left. She makes a list of things she wants to experience before she dies. They are pretty reasonable to me, given her age, even if some seem silly: to have sex, say yes to everything one day, break the law, be famous, drive, get her parents back together, and finally experience love. She’s a very level-headed girl and knows that the last is impossible in her situation, but a last bit of bittersweet luck allows her to meet a boy who does fall for her.

We’re dropped right into Tessa’s world. She’s been dealing with the cancer for four years and she’s sullen and feeling a little sorry for herself, but who wouldn’t be? She feels cheated and is having a hard time dealing with it. When she starts focusing on carrying out the items on the list, she finds they don’t bring her the satisfaction she hopes for. She starts paying attention to other things and notices little details about the world that most of us miss, imbuing them with personal importance. A bird flying in a straight line across the sky; light bursting through a hole in a cloud.

One of my favorite things about the book is her dad. He’s so sweet despite the fact that he is heartbroken. He really listens to Tessa in a way I think many parents would struggle to do in the same circumstances. She can say one thing and he knows that she really means something else. He’s trying to still parent her even while giving her a great deal of autonomy since they all know there’s no point in teaching her things about life since she’s not going to get to live it. He sets rules, she disobeys him, and he forgives her. The other characters are also good. There’s her insensitive eleven-year-old brother who alternates between telling her horrible things and expressing his love for her in his awkward way. Her friend Zoey isn’t the nicest person, but she’s a friend and she’s got a lot going on in her own life. Tessa’s mom is never going to win mother of the year, but she is believable and finally sort of comes through in the end. Then there’s Adam. The one weakness in the book to me was that I didn’t quite see why he fell in love with Tessa, but if you just accept that that sometimes happens, it works and he’s a good guy.

There was a quietness to the writing itself that made the experience of reading it more powerful. Through the book, Tessa experiences several rages and if you aren’t paying attention you would miss the intensity of them. But if you are paying attention, they are heartbreaking. The book will definitely take you on an emotional ride. It’s the kind of thing that makes you cry when you’re reading it, then makes you cry again later when you accidentally think about it.

Review: My Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught

My Big Fat Manifesto book cover

Big Fat Manifesto (in the paperback edition the title starts with “My”) is another book about an overweight girl. Sort of like the heroine in Dumplin’, Jamie Carcaterra doesn’t carry around deep shame about being fat, though she does carry around a deep awareness of it and how she’s perceived as a result of it. And not surprisingly, she’s not quite as confident as she tries so hard to be. Regardless, for her senior year, she decides to write an entire column about weight and related issues in her school newspaper in the hopes of winning a specific journalism scholarship. But Jamie isn’t stuck in her room, hiding from the world, working on her column. No, she has a lot of other things going on—a couple close friends, a boyfriend, a school play.

The book is set up with Jamie’s articles breaking up the chapters, so we get a lot of her direct voice, and it’s really good. She’s smart and a tad snarky but not overly so. The articles are interesting and show a real understanding of what it is to be overweight in America now, and some of the things that are most irritating about the way the media and people in general perceive and talk about fat people. First off, she takes issue with that annoying thing they do when talking about large people on TV—show obese, headless torsos walking down the street. She refers to the “obesity epidemic” itself as “hoo-ha,” which cracked me up. She talks about the absurdity of sizing for women’s clothing (don’t get me started on the fact that I can’t get shirts with sleeves that actually reach my wrists, but that’s not in the book so I’ll stop). She calls out the fact that it’s become socially acceptable to mock fat people.

For a good portion of the book, much of her column centers around a major event in her life—her boyfriend, Burke, is having gastric bypass surgery because he too is morbidly obese. And Jamie doesn’t like this. She is concerned because of health reasons, but there’s also a little bit of her vulnerability coming into play. If he loses a bunch of weight, will he still be her Burke, and will he still care about her? He experiences several complications along the way, and that and her column lead to some twists in her quest for the scholarship.

Not everyone is going to appreciate Jamie’s voice. She is sort of an angry fat girl with a bone to pick, after all, but I think that the book makes a lot of really interesting points. And it definitely does it with style.

Atlanta, Here I Come

I’m on my way to a writing conference in Atlanta now, probably quite uncomfortably stuffed into an airplane seat and weighing the pros and cons of drinking something—pro, I want to; con, then I might have to use the plane lavatory, which freaks me out a little.

The conference targets romance writing (it’s actually a larger conference for all sorts of book fans as well as writers), but I’m looking forward to picking up lots of general writing tidbits. I’m doing a boot camp that lasts two days and will probably wear me down. But fortunately the sessions don’t start for the rest of the conference until 10. So, wish me luck and fortitude.

This isn’t related. I’m sort of embarrassed that I bought one of these, but I couldn’t resist (it has blue in it—I love blue food*).

unicorn frappuccino

* A biochemist I once knew told me that humans are averse to eating blue food, since it is probably spoiled if it’s that color. More support for my theory that I’m not actually human.

Review: Asking for It by Louise O’Neill

Asking for It book cover

If I had to sum this book up in one word, it would be ‘devastating.’ I reviewed O’Neill’s first book (Only Ever Yours) earlier and her second book is even harder-hitting. Seriously, Asking for It is a wonderfully well-executed novel with a very important message, but it is agony to read because the story is so depressing. And real.

In the beginning, Emma is a fairly popular and pretty 18-year-old girl in an Irish town. She’s also quite vain and not particularly likable, which makes the book all the more interesting, I think. Her life is grand, full of parties and fun. And one night she does something stupid that alienates her own friends. Then some of the town’s best-loved boys carry out a nightmare assault on her while she’s unconscious. In our woman-hating society, her one bad choice becomes more important to everyone than all the boys’ documented horrific (and quite illegal) behavior.

Really, it’s hard to say too much more because I think it’s important to experience the story as it unfolds. I truly believe virtually everyone should read it (though to be fair, some people will need some guidance to understand the real significance, because they are idiots—not because the book isn’t perfect, which I think it is). The only people who don’t need to read it are those who already fully understand that victim-blaming is bullshit. Anyway, reading it is uncomfortable and will make you queasy because it’s so true. And truth often hurts.

Buy Asking for It on Amazon US


So everyone knows a lot of women get really into shoes, sometimes spending hundreds of dollars on these tiny, delicate things that look like they’ll fall apart if one wrong step is taken (if the wearer doesn’t hit the pavement first, anyway). Stilettos, strappy sandals, over-the-knee boots—all that. Now, I would definitely trip and break a leg or arm if I tried to walk around in heels. But that doesn’t keep me from loving shoes. I have a whole collection covering the rainbow and then some. And I got two new pairs this week that make me exceptionally happy.

rainbow vans
Rainbow Vans!


silver shoes

The Vans are particularly interesting to wear because people—even strangers sometimes—comment on them. Every time I’ve worn them out, this has happened. I’m also proud to mention that the silver pair is actually a ladies’ shoe, which is rare for me. You should be proud.

Anyway, now you know. I dig shoes.

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' book cover

The fact that the main character in this book is fat is important. It is definitely about being a fat teenage girl. But it’s more than that, because Willowdean has more going on than that, seeing as she’s, you know, a person. It’s convincingly set in small-town Texas, which brings another element to the book. One of the things I really liked about it was all the details the author threw in—it really gave a good sense of what it’s like to live in a large body (in Texas, too).

Willowdean is very different from me—for one, she’s relatively confident. She doesn’t let it stop her from going swimming at a public pool, for instance. She’s very self-aware and aware of how she’s perceived but has just not let that get to her too much. But the main reason I found her confidence believable was because there are chinks in it. There’s a scene where she’s kissing Bo and he touches her side—where there is some noticeable fat—and she recoils, afraid he’ll “know”. Of course this is ridiculous because he already knows she’s big by looking at her, but it’s also totally natural on her part. Also, she assumes Bo is inherently better than she is because he’s a jock. She can’t really believe he likes her back—she thinks he’s just slummin’ it with a girl who’s convenient, basically (since they hang out after work). When something changes that dynamic, she assumes she’s going to be tossed to the side so she takes preemptive action, which I sort of understood (though I still felt like she overreacted, given the circumstances).

The book obviously deals with that relationship, but there are several other things going on (that take up more space, too). The pageant is the big one, but it ties in directly with her relationship with her mom. Willowdean thinks her mom doesn’t love her as much as she would a healthy-sized daughter, which is probably true. Also important is her friendship with her best friend Ellen, which is suddenly on hold basically because of something really selfish Willowdean says. Again this comes from those old insecurities. Those things have to get resolved.

I didn’t get super into the whole pageant thing as I do dislike them. But the book has an interesting, somewhat ambivalent take on them. Because the friends Willowdean ends up doing the pageant with are all different, and one of them does take it seriously. Also, there’s Dolly Parton all through the book, which is definitely different. On the whole, it’s a unique book in YA and I’d recommend it.

Buy Dumplin’ on Amazon US

My House is in Disarray

Missing walls
Where are the walls?

I’m in the process of completely renovating my living room and dining room. Because of damage done by the very costly Bad Cat (aka Zmije), I had to replace all the drywall. Of course, I ended up having asbestos, so that turned the removal into a very expensive and complex process.

After the asbestos people cleared the house, the first thing Marvin did was run through the old half wall and then jump on top.

Marvin on the half wall

I’ve since had the wall taken out. Right now Marvin is temporarily locked up, although he is good at convincing me to let him out when I’m in the room with him.

Marvin in his cage
Marvin. “So I can sit here, or I can lie down here.” “Or you can sit in the litter box.”

And Zmije lives in a cage permanently now, which she bizarrely seems to like. Whenever I open the door to feed her, she head butts me and sometimes puts her paws on my chest, but makes no move to escape. She just needs attention. If I’d known she’d be happier this way, I’d have done it ages ago.

Zmije. “I thought you wanted me to pee on the wall.” “No.”

I so can’t wait for everything to be normal again.

Review: Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman

Jersey Angel book cover

Jersey Angel is different from most YA books because, frankly, there’s a lot of sex in it. It looks like a fun summer read, with a girl in a bikini at the beach on the cover. But it isn’t that, really. It’s definitely not for everybody, because the protagonist isn’t a super sympathetic character. Seventeen-year-old Angel is promiscuous and not a very good friend at all. But it’s raw and true to some teens’ experiences.

Angel has a couple of younger half-siblings she’s close with and her chill mom gives her way more freedom than a lot of teens have. She sort of has her own house, after all, except during the summer when her family rents it out to tourists. She also has two half-sisters on her dad’s side and strained relationship with her stepmom. She works occasionally but spends most of her free time at the beach and riding her bike around to hang with her various friends.

Angel lives for pleasure and barely bats an eye when her best friend’s boyfriend surprises her one night with a kiss. She enjoys sex and doesn’t want anything more than that out of a relationship, even though her semi-boyfriend Joey wants to make their relationship official. She finds it baffling that he’s called things off because she won’t. I get the feeling that him breaking up with her is the first hit her confidence has taken. Still, she’s oblivious to how shallow she really is. When she takes up with her friend’s boyfriend for real but in secret, she does feel bad, but it doesn’t stop her. Angel does grow over the next few months, but the novel doesn’t go where you’d expect it to. It’s just a nice little portrait of real life, bad choices and all.

Bauman does a great job of making a not-very-likable girl who’s about as different from me as possible into someone I at least find interesting to read about. The dialogue is spot-on—Bauman really nails Angel’s voice, as well as the other characters’. There are also all the little details that make her world real (Joey’s new interest in fancy cheese made me laugh).

Buy Jersey Angel on Amazon US

Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

The Miseducation of Cameron Post book cover

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a pretty unusual book for contemporary YA. First, it’s pretty long. It reads more like a memoir than a novel. I would classify it as literary fiction. I think maybe it’s a little short on clear traditional plot.

But none of those things means it’s not great.

The novel starts with a 12-year-old Cameron, who has her first kiss—with a girl—in the first few pages. Soon her world is shaken by the death of her parents, bringing in her aunt as her caretaker. We don’t see much of her life before her aunt, so it’s hard to know exactly how truly different things end up being, but we do know that her aunt is much more religious than her parents. This high religiosity—and the relatively conservatism of the Montana city they live in—means Cameron tries not to really think about what she knows about herself and how different she is from everyone around her. Eventually, she gets found out about halfway through the book and her aunt sends her off to a radical school.

It sort of ends up like two books, because the only thing that’s not different about the second half is Cameron herself. The setting, the characters, the goals—everything else is new. The two halves read a little differently, too, with the second half faster-paced despite the fact that it focuses on a shorter period of time.

Regardless, I did read the book very slowly, but it was more to savor it the experience than because it didn’t hold my interest. It seemed to demand a slow read, in fact—I needed to digest it piece by piece. I should also mention that while it may be a novel about growing up a lesbian girl, but it didn’t necessarily feel like a coming-out book. It’s more about accepting and embracing who you really are. Personally, I found it really easy to relate to Cameron’s “differentness.” It didn’t hurt that she was born just two years later than I was, so her pop culture references were very familiar, but it was more about the fact that she just didn’t identify with the standard expression of femininity.

Buy The Miseducation of Cameron Post on Amazon US

Sometimes 75% is Good Enough

marvin standing on the heater

Marvin loves the heater so much that he’s found a way to stand on it even though he can’t balance with all four paws on it. He does this all the time. It has me thinking that maybe perfection isn’t necessary–something between nothing and everything can still be okay…

Review: Dark River by Mary Jane Beaufrand

Dark River book cover

I stumbled across Dark River at Half Price Books and knew nothing about it, but it sounded interesting. The cover asked, What deadly secrets does the river hold?

Ronnie’s parents move her to a small, rural-ish town in Oregon so they can run a country inn. Her dad is a former attorney who doesn’t miss it, and Ronnie is a former city girl who does. Her mom cooks exotic stuff to make people feel better, being a former TV cooking show star. Ronnie’s a little lonely and has just one friend who works at the inn, Gretchen, and a guy at school she has a crush on, though that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. She also befriends a young girl named Karen, who she babysits.

The river is basically a moody character in the story, setting the entire tone of the book. Ronnie is a little fascinated by it, as well as the rest of nature that she’s getting acquainted with. She watches everything during her long runs out on the country roads.  But her comfortable world is rocked when she finds Karen’s body at the river while on one of her runs. At first, it seems not surprising that the volatile river would take a life.

But things get more complicated when it turns out that Karen didn’t drown accidentally. And a warning from the sheriff to Ronnie about Gretchen seems like nothing but eventually turns out to be a harbinger of some really dreadful things. The world is not as Ronnie sees it—it’s much darker and she has to come face to face with it.

She sense of foreboding is there throughout the novel so that you know something is going to happen, but I for one had no idea what it was going to be. And it’s interesting and relevant. Overall, a good read, and relatively short if you’re not in the mood for a something lengthy (though it’s emotionally hefty, for sure).

Buy Dark River on Amazon US

Review: Winger and Stand Off by Andrew Smith

Winger book cover
Stand-Off book cover

Andrew Smith always impresses me. But of all of his books that I’ve read, Winger and Stand-Off are my favorites because they are funny but still speak to something real. As always with Smith, the main character is a boy, which offers a different perspective from what I usually read. The novels follow Ryan Dean West, a smart kid who’s skipped two grades and attends a boarding school. He’s got a little bit of an artistic bent and draws great little illustrations covering various aspects of his life. He’s also pretty crude and gives us a direct line into the male teen psyche, which is both funny and a teensy bit disturbing. It’s not like I didn’t know that sex is on their minds about 80% of the time, but it’s still funny to see it played out. Still, the male characters feel very real and even relatable.

Ryan Dean’s in a slightly awkward position since he’s younger than his peers (his cohort, I guess I could say). At the beginning of Winger, his best friend is a girl named Annie, and unsurprisingly he’s in love with her, but as he’s just fourteen and she’s sixteen, she (also unsurprisingly) thinks he’s just a kid. Ryan Dean also has to play a sport—and he chooses rugby, which is interesting because it’s a pretty tough game. I’m not giving anything important away if I tell you there’s a pretty funny and unquestionably painful scene where Ryan Dean’s crotch gets stepped on by a heavy cleat, which actually causes bleeding. Poor guy. Throughout the course of his junior year, he also becomes really good friends with an older boy named Joey, who serves as a bit of a mentor while Ryan Dean makes some pretty bad choices along the way. When something really terrible happens at the end of the book, Ryan Dean’s grown up some so he can handle it a little better than he might have earlier.

But he doesn’t handle it all that well, and that carries us into the sequel, Stand Off. In this one, he’s a fifteen-year-old senior but he gets stuck with an annoying twelve-year-old freshman roommate in one of the the smallest dorm rooms on campus. The powers that be at the school figure Ryan Dean will be great for helping the kid—Sam—adjust to life at the school. He resents this, since he’s spent his whole time there trying to transcend the age difference. By now, he’s managed to convince Annie to be his girlfriend, so things should looking up, even if Sam is a little fixated on her, himself. Ryan Dean’s also been made captain of the rugby team, which brings its own set of challenges. Most importantly, the troubles of the last year are still haunting him, leaving him with some genuine problems he’s afraid to face head-on. The novel takes us through that year, with him finally dealing with everything by getting the help he needs to make it happen.

I really can’t recommend these books enough.

You can buy Winger and Stand-Off on Amazon US