Nine years after Stoner & Spaz (2002), Koertge picks up where the first installment left off, with Ben (a rich kid with cerebral palsy) and Colleen (a drug addict with no functioning parent) alternatively in love and at odds. Before Ben, 16, met Colleen, he'd lived vicariously through film, and her interest in him shook him out of his stupor. "I was for sure headed for Hermitville. Odd-Duck Town. Weirdo City," he admits. But Colleen is a lot of work—she relapses frequently, his grandmother disapproves of her, she kisses him passionately then leaves a party with someone else. "You just wear me out," he tells her. Ben has made one well-received student film; now he's searching for a second subject. Is it Colleen? Is it his mother, who left him on his grandmother's doorstep 12 years earlier? There's scant plot, but Koertge writes sharp dialogue and vivid scenes. Little is resolved for either character except that they seem better off with each other than without, which is likely how many readers will feel about these companionable misfits, too. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)
The repartee between Ben and Colleen — funny, suggestive, and intense — is spot-on, and readers will easily sympathize with both teens and their frustrating choices, while the adult characters and their problems are equally unique and well-developed. A rollercoaster of authentic emotions, Koertge's novel offers readers a fast, furious, and satisfyingly upbeat view of the world.
—Booklist (starred review)
Koertge writes crisp dialogue and ably captures both Ben’s bewilderment as he moves from loser recluse to Mr. Popularity and his complex feelings toward A.J. and Colleen....Movie buffs will appreciate the references to films, a hallmark of Ben’s first outing. Readers familiar with the first book will be glad to see Ben’s return; newcomers will be glad they finally met him.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In this darkly humorous sequel, Koertge continues the adventures of 16-year-old Ben Bancroft, "the Spaz," the kid with cerebral palsy readers met in the insightful and engaging Stoner & Spaz (2001).
At the close of the first book, Ben was enjoying the sweet smell of success with the premiere of his first documentary,High School Confidential, and a beautiful girl, A.J., had just hit on him. His happiness is short-lived, because Colleen, Ben's sharp-tongued friend who is in rehab, leaves the premiere to hook up with some random guy to get stoned. This book picks up a few days later, with Ben still confused about his feelings about Colleen. He loves her beauty and wit and the fact that she totally gets him, but he knows Grandma will never approve. A.J. represents everything his grandmother wants for him, but why does Ben feel like her project rather than a friend whenever they're together? Koertge writes crisp dialogue and ably captures both Ben's bewilderment as he moves from loser recluse to Mr. Popularity and his complex feelings toward A.J. and Colleen. Ben's long-absent mother's appearance offers an opportunity to recognize the value of his grandmother.Movie buffs will appreciate the references to films, a hallmark of Ben's first outing.
Readers familiar with the first book will be glad to see Ben's return; newcomers will be glad they finally met him.(Fiction. 14 & up)
Watch enough romantic comedies and you will spot herthe manic, pixie, dream girl (MPDG), a daring, outspoken young woman with interesting hair and a quirky sense of style. She is smart, snarky, and maybe unlawful. She swoops in to rescue the buttoned-up, emotionally disconnected hero from himself. Colleen Minou is that MPDG, unfortunately referred to as Stoner in the title of this sequel to the 2002 Stoner & Spaz (Candlewick/VOYA April 2002). She has a drug problem and a crazy stripper mom. Movie buff Ben Bancroft is a coddled preppie, raised by a wealthy philanthropist grandma who dresses him in khakis and oxford cloth and makes sure he eats enough fiber. He defines himself by his spastic cerebral palsy, which cripples the left side of his body. Hooking up with Colleen in the first book failed to boost Ben's self esteem. He constantly refers to himself as Spaz, cripple, retard, odd duck, weirdo and hermit. He meets A.J., an equally-moneyed, movie-loving girl who might be interested in him, but she does not excite him like MPDG. No matter how many times Colleen disappears, gets high, and then shows up for attention, he will welcome her back. Now Playing picks up a couple of days after Stoner & Spaz ends, but for readers, it has been nine years between books. Society's use of technology has progressed tremendously since 2002, so it seems odd that Ben's grandma is finally allowing him his "own Verizon account." At last he has email! Moreover, Koertge fails to successfully capture the thoughts and language of today's teens. Despite a number of current pop culture references, Now Playing reads as though it has been stuck in time. Readers might wonder if a sequel was necessary. Reviewer: Paula Gallagher
Gr 9 Up—In this series/sequel-crazy market, it's unusual for an author to wait for almost 10 years to revisit characters and a plot that worked. Koertge notes that Ben Bancroft, half crippled by cerebral palsy, and Colleen Minou, not-quite clean-and-sober pothead, are characters who "weren't finished with me." That's good news for lovers of Stoner & Spaz (Candlewick, 2002) and for those who will grab it after enjoying this book. Colleen changes Ben's life in the first novel through acceptance, and he is riding a small wave of success in making and showing a documentary of the disparate groups from his high school. He still loves movies, both at a retro film house and at his home, shared with his wealthy, distant but loving grandmother. And he still loves Colleen, whose tongue in his ear drives him wild and whose clasp of his withered hand makes him feel life can be more than watching movies. This time, it's Colleen whose hang-ups and tattered life need fixing, while Ben entertains the idea of a different sort of girl friend: A.J., another teen filmmaker from a "good" family who wants Ben to capitalize on the sadness of his life and on the pain of others to make art. Colleen helps Ben dirty up his life with a search for his long-lost mother while she tries to clean up her own by moving away from her stripper mom, getting a job, and working the steps. Colleen, rebellious, and Ben, thoughtful-the dynamic still works. The wry truth of the tale might just capture the next generation of YA readers.—Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA