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Winning Hardcover – June 28, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Alexandra is a winner. Some may think that her pageant wins and popularity come naturally, but behind the scenes, she is practicing and plotting every move. When a new girl threatens her next scheme to be homecoming queen, Alexandra must take drastic measures. She enlists the help of her best friend and accomplice, Sam, and the two girls target a loner to help throw the competition, but Alexandra may have gone too far this time. Sam and the new girl stumble into a romantic relationship. Together, they join up with Sloane, another girl ready to take down Alexandra, to exact revenge and crown the deserving queen. Although the loss causes Alexandra to reflect on what went wrong, she is unapologetic. Rather than learning the lesson that cheaters never win, she is more determined to rise from the ashes, perhaps more manipulative than before. Justice does prevail, but the joy of this book is in the mischievous backstabbing and scheming. Deloza's cunning, totally despicable protagonist will pull readers into this fast-paced drama. Hopefully, this is not the last we see of Alexandra. VERDICT A fun addition to any collection in need of humorous YA.—Carrie Finberg, South Park High School, PA
“The joy of this book is in the mischievous backstabbing and scheming. Deloza’s cunning, totally despicable protagonist will pull readers into this fast-paced drama. Hopefully, this is not the last we see of Alexandra.” (School Library Journal)
“A queen bee and her hive, dissected.” (Kirkus)
Top customer reviews
Written in an ease that propels readers quickly through the book, Lara Deloza gives readers real, relatable characters that allow them to fall right into the story. From humiliation to envy, betrayal and even love, every aspect of high school and popularity comes to light. However, even with a protagonist that you want to hate, you can’t help but empathize with her, as the mystery unfolds to why she is the way she is.
Exploring the complexity of High School relationships, friendships and the lengths one will go to be accepted by her peers, Winning is a perfect summer read for anyone who wants to be reminded of humility.
*Full review published in Dixon Independent Voice Newspaper column- For the Love of Books
Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!
QUILTBAG: 4 (Sam is lesbian; Erin is either lesbian or bi, but it’s never specified)
Disability: 2 (Lexi’s mom is drug-addicted)
About five years ago, Charlie Sheen had a meltdown and coined phrase after phrase. One of them was “winning” and it seems apt that this novel has the title it does. Why? Because Winning the novel is just as ridiculous and terrifying as Sheen’s downward spiral and will have you reacting in many of the same ways. (Still more entertaining than most Charlie Sheen-starring shows or films, though.)
Winning is told through four different points of view: Lexi, the pageant queen who serves as both primary narrator and antagonist; Sam, Lexi’s best friend; Sloane, a former victim of Lexi’s bullying; and Ivy, an outcast who spends all of her time ignoring what people say about her big incident. The four come into conflict when a new girl named Erin moves to town and Lexi pulls together a plan to make sure sweet, genuine Erin doesn’t beat her in the race for homecoming queen.
The book knows its readers are smart and will recognize that Lexi is a terrible, terrible person who uses Sam’s attraction to her to keep Sam in line, works to build Ivy’s confidence up solely to knock her back down and make herself look good, and has no problem. That’s why I call her the antagonist when primary narrators like her are usually the protagonist. Still, for how awful she is, she’s an incredibly interesting character with little gleams of humanity here and there. The more you learn about her home life and the way her mother raised her, the more sympathetic she gets.
Still the antagonist, though. A sympathetic bad guy is still a bad guy. A sequel about her would be wonderful considering where she is at story’s end, but this is absolutely a standalone novel.
All four narrators have clear, distinct narrative voices and excellent characterization. They’ve all got secrets that slowly unravel too, like the horrifying story behind Ivy’s suddenly-punch-though-a-window-and-scream-bloody-murder incident. For Ivy in particular, what happened to her is spoken of and understood implicitly. Deloza’s decision to have Ivy avoid specific details is realistic and handled in a way that’s unlikely to trigger readers.
Thanks to the enthusiasm with which Lexi pursues her goals, it’s easy to get caught up in her plot. Still, you remember every now and again that this is all done in the name of being homecoming queen. Building an already-beaten-up girl’s confidence again just to humiliate her in a new way, drugging people, and worse–all so she can be homecoming queen. I’m only four years out of high school and I can’t even remember who homecoming queen was! It’s a worthless title but convincingly written like it matters more than anything else, which speaks to Deloza’s talent. Even the plan to take Lexi down made me stop every now and then and wonder what was in the town’s water supply!
As well-written as all four narrators and the major supporting characters are, the central four’s voices see their flows interrupted from time to time. Their narration will forego contractions for some reason and it just doesn’t “feel” right when you try to read the passages out loud to yourself. Other than that, how much you love the novel is dependent on how much you can go with the premise and care about the homecoming scheme as much as Lexi.
If high school has you stressed as you’re trying to climb the social ladder or be named something or other (prom court, most likely to succeed, a club president, etc.), chill out. You’ll be there for four years and it’s your primary social environment, yeah but it’s still just high school in the end. It’s merely a place to learn stuff and the rest will be what you want to make of it! If you take it too seriously, you become Lexi and you really don’t want to be her. Girl has issues. Winning is both an entertaining read and a grounding experience I think could change a teen’s life for the better.