Illustrated by: Sam Bosma
For Ages: 12 - 99
  • 23
A teen at boarding school grapples with life, love, and rugby in this unforgettable novel that is “alternately hilarious and painful, awkward and enlightening” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

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.

Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications with the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics. 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 infographics 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.
  • Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | 
  • 464 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781442444935 | 
  • September 2014 | 
  • Grades 7 and up | 
  • Lexile ® 890L
List Price $12.99 (price may vary by retailer)
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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to


By Andrew Smith


Ryan Dean seems to have everything going for him but he feels like a loser. At fourteen he's already a junior at Pine Mountain Academy, a prestigious coed boarding school in Oregon. But it's tough being two years younger than your classmates, even if you are at the top of your class and a star on the varsity rugby team. And it’s even tougher when you’re in crazy love with your best friend, Annie Altman, who thinks it would be nothing short of ridiculous to be in love with you.

Wanting desperately to fit in among his grade peers and trying to grow up too fast, Ryan Dean struggles with the emotional maturity not yet realized in his youthful innocence. He makes impulsive choices that mess things up and sometimes threaten to ruin everything. What would he do without his best friend, Joey, whose much-needed influence helps Ryan Dean get back on track? But just when Ryan Dean finally gets a grip and life is looking good, an inconceivable tragedy strikes. Things can never be the same.

Discussion Questions

1. As narrator, Ryan Dean tells his deeply moving story in his own first-person voice. Do you find his voice to be relatable?

2. The use of metanarrative allows Ryan Dean to attempt, as best he can through a personal perspective of contemplation and reflection, to recall and understand the past. Through the writ see more

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About the Author

Andrew Smith
Photograph by Kaija Bosket

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is the author of several novels for young adults, including WingerStand-Off100 Sideways Miles, and the Michael L. Printz Honor Book Grasshopper Jungle. He lives in a remote area in the mountains of Southern California with his family, two horses, two dogs, and three cats. He doesn’t watch television, and occupies himself by writing, bumping into things outdoors, and taking ten-mile runs on snowy trails.