Sometimes a great book sneaks up on you, humbly disguised as a merely good book. Here’s an example from the movies: I liked The Sixth Sense quite a lot, right from the start–but [SPOILER ALERT] when it turned out that Bruce Willis’s character had been dead the whole time–I loved it instantly. In that moment, the movie ceased to be good and became capital G Great.
So it is with Winger by Andrew Smith.
Smith cast his characters into a complex world and, as I sped toward the end of the book, I felt mildly disappointed in the simplicity of the third act; all these beautifully loose ends were being tied up far too neatly. With his smooth prose and effervescent humor, the author had lulled me into a false sense of security.
Because the end is not simple or neat. Not at all.
The powerful thing about a well-seeded ending is that it can transform the content of a book retroactively. With his last 40 pages, Smith managed to transmute what had been a work of YA fiction into what I can only describe as literature. Winger’s hero, Ryan Dean West, will never be the same after the end of the book, and neither will I.