Stand Off by Andrew Smith Book Review

Stand Off (Winger #2) by Andrew Smith 
Illustrations by Sam Bosma
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 8, 2015

It is Ryan Dean's senior year at Pine Mountain and things are looking like shit, which Ryan Dean would never say out loud because he doesn't curse. Haunted by his past, Ryan Dean sees disaster everywhere. First is the disaster known as Sam Abernathy, Ryan Dean's twelve-year-old freshman roommate with a severe claustrophobia and a pension for microwave popcorn. Then there is his girlfriend Annie seems to be drifting further away from him. And what about the coach who wants to make him team captain of the rugby team, but it will mean filling the place that his best friend Joey used to have and Ryan Dean doesn't think he is up for that. Add in crippling night-time anxiety attacks and N.A.T.E. (the Next Accidental Terrible Experience) ready to strike at any time, and Ryan Dean is sure he is going insane.

In this second installment we return with Ryan Dean, the lovable oaf from Winger who curses only in his head and somehow has a smoking hot girlfriend. Unlike the last book though, Ryan Dean has become a bit of a dick. After what happened to Joey, Ryan Dean is dealing with a lot and everything at Pine Mountain reminds him of his former best friend. Perhaps this is the reason he decides that he is going to hate his new roommate. Not that his roommate makes it hard for him, insisting on sleeping with the window open and being so damned nice all the time. The kid looks like a cherub so of course he should be loathed. It was hard watching Ryan Dean self-destruct in a way that only really hurt people can do. He pushes everyone away and is still so sure that he is a loser that he begins to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. The thing is, Ryan Dean really is a cool kid even when he is being a complete douche, he just doesn't have Joey around the remind him of that.

I also love that these books deal with issues surrounding being gay. The first book dealt with it in a different way than this one, but both encompass experiences that felt authentic even if they were a bit tidy. There are some great rugby moments, a few tear-jerking incidents, one grief-stricken brother, too many unspoken curse words, and my favorite--Ryan Dean driving a car for the first time. You do need to read the first book to understand this one, but I promise, you will love Ryan Dean so much that you will be more than willing to read two books about him.