10 September 2014

More about Winger (Spoilers)

l can't get it out of my head. Sometimes a book just sticks with you. I keep thinking about the ending. Like I said: Spoilers.

We've all heard stories of gay bashings, seen the news, read about it in books and magazines. Hell, I did a production of The Laramie Project back when I was in high school. It was my first lighting design. It was pretty decent for someone who had no real idea what they were doing and had just been handed their first gel book.

I digress.

Ryan Dean spends so much of the book making mistakes, and throughout it, Joey is there to tell him when he's in the wrong, to tell him to get his shit together, but also to defend him, to praise him when he does good. He's a great friend to Ryan Dean. And Ryan Dean is a great friend back, treating him like any other friend, worrying about him, defending him, and displaying an amazing amount of empathy for a 14-year-old straight guy. Ryan Dean knows being friends with Joey makes him a target, and he's ashamed of himself for even thinking it. He shouldn't be ashamed. We can't always control our thoughts, only our actions. And Ryan Dean's actions are nothing to be ashamed of.

What happened to Joey really haunts me. That our last glimpse of him was with Ryan Dean, goofing off after the dance - Ryan Dean pretending to be an iPod, singing like a goofball - makes it all the harder. Ryan Dean finally did get his shit together, just like Joey always told him. But Joey never got to see it. Joey was brave and kind, but the world didn't care.

Andrew Smith has written before that he's not a big believe in the It Gets Better campaign - because in his experience it doesn't always get better. That's so true. But even if it didn't get better, Winger shows us how to move forward, and how other people's lives can touch us so deeply, no matter who they love.

Winger's ending is going to be with me for a long time. The copy I read came from the library, but my own copy should arrive in another day or two. I expect to have a long and rewarding relationship with it.

Winger might just be my favorite book this year.