Thursday, November 7, 2013


Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

I remember when this cover was first released, I took one look at it and said...DAMN, that's one of my favorite covers ever. I don't know if I can really explain what I love about it so much. It's just a completely realistic kid looking directly at the camera, and the bloody nose and stitches add this level of interest to the whole thing. How did this seemingly normal kid get these injuries? Did he get in a fight? I need to know!

Amazingly, the words inside this book ended up being even better than the cover. I've been a fan of Andrew Smith on his blog and on twitter for a long time now, but I hadn't read any of his writing before. I'd heard so many good things about this book that I knew it had to be the one of his I started off with, and, oh man, it did not disappoint. The voice in this book? It's amazing. Want to know how it feels to be in the mind of a fourteen year old guy, for better or for worse? Crack this book open, friends. 

Ryan Dean plays rugby and thinks pervy things about his best friend, Annie. But he also has these genuine thoughts and feelings for his friends and for himself that endear you to him immediately. Watching him mature through the course of the book is an amazing thing, and there are parts of this book, things Ryan Dean says and does, that almost bring a tear to my eye now, weeks and weeks after finishing this story. 

This book isn't really what you'd call high concept. It has Ryan Dean's little drawings and cartoons throughout, which are awesome, but what moves the story forward is the character of Ryan Dean himself and his authentic and genuine voice. You want to know this guy. You want to follow him on this amazing and heartbreaking journey he goes on. You want to look that kid on the cover in the face, scars and blood and all, and walk with him onto the rugby pitch. You'll laugh with him, you'll cry with him, and you'll be forever changed by Ryan Dean West. I promise.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today... 


  1. I love this book so much. It's a great place to start with Smith's books, too. Definitely the most accessible novel he's written yet.

  2. I have a copy of this book and I'm excited to read it!

  3. I got totally sucked in by the voice too--I loved all the 5 out of 5 rankings he did throughout the book :)

  4. I found the albums that contained a song you were looking for on a 2011 post.
    When the goin' gets rough and I'm feelin kinda down
    When I'm all alone and there's no one else around
    When I lose a bone or two and I start to feelin' blue
    Well this is what I learned to do
    I don't growl I don't bite
    I just do what is rrright
    I keep a-waggin' my tail I keep my nose on the trail
    And I'm a-rrunnin' along and I'm ba-arking my song
    And I don't have to howl the blues no more

    It's from Agapeland. Apparently it's from a story album called Nathaniel the Grublet. It was difficult for me to find because I knew it from a record that was apparently a compilation called Adventures in Agapeland which is no longer made.