Ryan Dean West returns to Pine Mountain for his senior year and discovers his new roommate is a claustrophobic 12 year-old freshman named Sam. Intent on ignoring his roommate, Ryan Dean focuses on his girlfriend Annie, rugby, and his vivid imagination. Unfortunately, in the wake of his best friend’s death, he finds himself suffering panic attacks, feeling stalked by Nate (the Next Accidental Terrible Event), and keeping his former friends at a distance. As Ryan Dean and Annie grow closer, she helps put him on a path to making new friends and imagining life beyond Pine Mountain.
I loved reading Winger, and I eagerly anticipated its sequel. While falling short of the original book, Stand-Off provides a satisfying reunion with Ryan Dean West and his schoolmates. For most of the book, Ryan Dean seems trapped by the grief of losing his best friend and at risk of spiraling away from the people he needs the most. My favorite scenes in Winger hinged on the romantic tension between Ryan Dean and Annie, and while they grow closer in this book, they do not spend as much quality time together. Ryan Dean spends much of this book alone, or trying to isolate himself, which provides entertaining glimpses into his thought processes, but robs readers of the delightfully awkward interactions between Ryan Dean and his friends. The introduction of Sam gave me some sense of how Ryan Dean may have acted as a freshman, and provided good comic relief to Ryan Dean’s grief. Readers who want a glimpse into the hearts and minds of adolescent boys (testicular humor, sexual fixations, and all) should give Stand-Off a chance.