416p. ebook available. S. & S. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418294.
RedReviewStarGr 9 Up—In this sequel to Winger (S. & S., 2013), Ryan Dean West's senior year at Pine Mountain Academy is off to a rough start. Still grieving over friend Joey's death, he's saddled with Sam, a 12-year-old freshman roommate he dismisses as a "larva in soccer pajamas." Adding to the pressure, his rugby coach wants him to take Joey's position on the field and as team captain. Resulting panic attacks and visions of a Grim Reaper-esque guy he names Nate (Next Acciden+al Terrible Experience) make Ryan Dean aware he needs help, but he can't bring himself to ask for it. Hot girlfriend Annie offers sex and parental-sounding advice, but two male relationships finally help Ryan Dean open his heart again. Sam is able to see the pain behind Ryan Dean's facade due to his own past trauma. Bound by their mutual grief, Joey's brother Nico and Ryan Dean begin a fragile friendship. The novel's heavy issues are tempered by Ryan Dean's wickedly funny ruminations and good-natured male crudeness. An ingeniously conceived subplot provides teens with a practical lesson on sexual consent. Readers are left with the reassurance that no one can be expected to handle their problems alone.
VERDICT The novel succeeds not only as an emotionally satisfying sequel but as a hopeful, honest account of coping with a devastating loss.

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