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STONER & SPAZ by Ron Koertge Kirkus Star


by Ron Koertge

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7636-1608-7
Publisher: Candlewick

“Nobody talks about my disability. Nobody ever makes a joke about it. They talk toward me and pretend I’m like everybody else. Better, actually. Brave and strong. A plucky lad.” So complains narrator 16-year-old Ben Bancroft, who limps and has a shriveled arm from cerebral palsy. When he starts hanging out with drug addict Colleen Minou, he finally feels like someone is looking past his disability. She calls him the names he calls himself, like “spaz,” and she cuts him no slack. He doesn’t object that she has a boyfriend, he’s so happy to be noticed and have physical contact with a girl. Until meeting Colleen, Ben conformed to the expectations of his rigid, but caring, aristocratic grandmother: study hard, attend cultural events, dress in preppy clothes, plan to attend business school. His only real passion was watching and analyzing movies. After Colleen nudges him out of living vicariously, Ben further expands by interviewing his fellow students to make a movie. In the process, he learns that others see him as arrogant and alone by choice. Koertge (The Brimstone Journals, 2001, etc.) convincingly captures high-school life, where sex and drugs are everyday matters, and conversations frequently include obscenities. Ben’s voice and his conversations with Colleen sparkle with wit much like the dialogue in a Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn movie, which is fitting in view of Ben’s many references to films. No fairy-tale ending crowns his relationship with Colleen, but Ben has ample reason to be hopeful about his future at the end of this insightful, engaging novel. (Fiction. YA)