Stoner & Spaz

Stoner & Spaz

by Ron Koertge

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763654443
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 04/26/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Lexile: 490L (what's this?)
File size: 605 KB
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Ron Koertge is the author of several acclaimed novels, including The Brimstone Journals. Of Stoner&Spaz, he says, "My wife works with the disabled. One night she came home and told me about a young man she'd been working with. He had C.P. and a terrific sense of humor. Coincidentally, that day I had talked to a former student of mine who'd recently been in rehab for substance abuse. What would happen, I wondered, if those two knew each other? Two months later—the first draft of Stoner&Spaz." Ron Koertge lives in South Pasadena, California.

I lived most of my kid-life in Collinsville, Illinois, a little coal-mining town not far from St. Louis. The town turns up as the setting in Coaltown Jesus. My parents were hard working, blue-collar folks, and that’s probably why I write pretty much every day seven days a week. Well, I don’t write all day, of course, but three or four hours for sure. I’ve been a smart aleck all my life without being (I hope) too obnoxious, and being funny is how I made my way through high school and college and beyond. My smart mouth gets me into trouble, but it’s also helped me out of some tight spots. I never planned to be a writer, though I did have a high-school teacher who was encouraging. I started out as a poet (and still am one) because I met kids in college (University of Illinois) and grad school (University of Arizona) who were writing poetry and I wanted to hang with them, so I did what they did. I didn’t keep it a secret from my folks, but the idea of a boy from Collinsville writing poetry would’ve been hard for them to get their heads around.

So you know about the poetry. As far as fiction goes, somebody who went to college when I did (1958–1962) and who wanted to write, went directly to novels. I did publish one for adults, but the next few were all failures. Finally a friend of mine said that I was so chronically immature I should write for sixteen-year-old boys. That didn’t hurt my feelings, since it was true, so I just sat down and wrote Where the Kissing Never Stops. The book did well, so I’ve been pretending to be a sixteen-year-old boy (or girl) ever since. Fiction doesn’t come easy to me, exactly, but novels are just long stories, and I like to tell stories. When I get letters from readers, it’s almost always about how one of my books made their day a little better. Such a great thing to hear! There’s always funny stuff in my novels, even if the story has serious or even sad parts. I can’t help myself apparently.

Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. How old I am. Early seventies. And yet I keep writing for kids/teenagers. I tend to ask for ideas-for-stories (some would call that praying), and when the ideas show up, they’re for the audience I always write for.
2. I like to handicap race horses and bet on them. A good friend of mine works in theatre in New York. He and I go to different race tracks every year. I’ve been part-owner of Thoroughbred. I know West Coast jockeys. It’s a hobby, like golf, but I don’t have to buy special equipment.
3. I’ve been a teacher pretty much all my life, and one of the coolest things is seeing somebody I’ve mentored as a writer go on and do well. Success isn’t like a small room; there’s always space for more and more and more people.

Read an Excerpt

For a couple of days I don't see Colleen. Which disappoints me. Which reminds me of why I am what I am: a bit player in the movie of life. Listed at the tag end of the credits: Crippled Kid. Before Thug #1 but after Handsome Man in Copy Shop.
Then my phone rings and I lunge for it. It has to be her. Nobody calls me. I mean that. Nobody. My answering machine probably has cobwebs in it.
Without saying hello or anything, she asks, "I was talking to some kids at school about you. What happened to your mom?"
I fall back on the bed, relieved and excited. "Nobody knows. She just split." I roll onto my side. "Turn on AMC. Check out how John Ford shoots this scene so it looks like John Wayne is about a hundred feet tall."
As I watch, I hear the raspy sound of a Bic lighter, then her quick intake of breath. "I thought John Wayne actually was a hundred feet tall."
"The Searchers is still really popular. Do you know the story? Ethan totally devotes his life to finding this niece of his that the Comanches kidnapped. I guess most people like the idea of somebody who'll just look for them and look for them and never give up no matter how long it takes."
"My father disappeared, too."
"Like about a second after I was born, I guess. Even John Wayne couldn't find that son of a bitch."
"You don't want to go look for him ever?"
"No way. Do you want to find your mom?"
"Sometimes. Around the holidays, usually. When it's just Grandma and me and a turkey as big as a VW."
"Do you know Ms. Johnson?"
"The sociology teacher?"
"And resident feminist. She says sometimes women split because they have to. She says sometimes they have to be true to themselves."
"So it's not always because some kid is dragging his foot around the house?" That's when Grandma knocks softly on my half-open door. I turn my back on her and whisper into the phone, "Looks like I better go."
Colleen whispers back, "Me, too, if I want to keep up with my regimen of self-destructive behavior."
Grandma leads me into the living room. This is never a good sign. "I hope I didn't disturb you, Benjamin."
"That's okay. I was just talking to a, uh, friend."
"How nice!"
I can almost see the exclamation point, and it means she's surprised I have a friend. I'm not getting into that.
"Did you want to talk to me?"
"Yes, I spoke to the new neighbor this morning. She seems very pleasant, and I thought it would be a nice gesture if we invited her for brunch." She holds out an envelope, one of her ritzy cream-colored ones. "It's a bit on the short-notice side, but I've got leukemia next week, then UNICEF, and before you know it the whole Tournament of Roses thing begins in earnest. Our phone number's right at the bottom in case she isn't home, but I believe she is."
"You want me to take this over now?"
"It's barely dark. I don't think she'd be alarmed." Then she looks down at my sweats, the ones she sends to the cleaners.
In old-fashioned cartoons there are always rich women looking at things through these glasses-on-a-stick. That is my grandma. She pretty much looks at everything like she has glasses-on-a-stick. Including me. Especially me.
"Would you mind changing, dear, since you're going to go out-of-doors?"
For somebody with C.P., changing clothes is no piece of cake. The good side has to help the bad side, so it takes a little while. And if I'm not careful, I'll get all my clothes off and see myself in the mirror. And that is something I try never to do.
Fifteen minutes later, I'm standing on the curb, still sweating from the struggle. God, I hate getting dressed. It always reminds me of how I am.
A couple of SUVs glide by, both of them driven by the littlest mommies in the world, like there's some place called Inverse Proportion Motors and the smaller you are, the bigger the car you have to buy.
Lurching across the empty street, I wave at Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong, who sit on their porch every evening and stare at the Neighborhood Watch sign with its sinister cloaked figure.
I make my way up the walk of 1003 between borders of purple lobelia. The lights are on. Music seeps out from under the oak door.
Just in case the doorbell's broken, I tap with the little bridle that hangs from the brass horse's head. When I hear footsteps I announce, "Hi, I'm a neighbor. From across the street."
The door opens. A woman in a striped caftan says, "Yes, can I help you?" Her black hair is short and shot through with gray. She has quick-looking eyes and sharp features. If some people look smoothed by hand, this lady is machine made.
I tell her my name and why I've come.
"Marcie Sorrels." She's holding a drink with her right hand, so she sticks out the other one.
I show her my bad arm, the fingers curled into a pathetic little fist.
"Not a stroke, I hope."
"But not dyskinetic."
"No, spastic."
"Ah, well, you were lucky."
"That's the title of my autobiography: Ben, the Lucky Spaz."
She opens the door wider. "Why don't you come inside and be hard on yourself?"
All of a sudden, I just want to throw Grandma's envelope at her feet and get out of there. What does she know? I think. Who does she think she is, anyway?
And then I wonder if I'm having a heart attack, because I've never thrown anything at anybody in my life, not even a baseball. Well, for sure not a baseball.
Where does all that emotion come from? Is it just from hanging around Colleen, who's so famous for going off on teachers she has a permanent seat in detention?

STONER & SPAZ by Ron Koertge. Copyright (c) 2002 by Ron Koertge. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Stoner and Spaz 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am ashamed to admit that I only chose this book because it looked like a quick read for a book project. I finished it in about a day, but not because it was so short, it was compelling. I loved how different the characters were from most other books I have read. The pairing of Ben and Colleen is something you will never most likely see in real life, but Koertge makes it work well enough to be believable. I would recomend this book for mature readers. There is quiet a bit of language and some sexual content. I am sixteen years old, and I enjoyed this book very much. It's one of the best ones I have read in a long time.
Masarati8thlit More than 1 year ago
In Stoner and Spaz, Ben and Colleen have a relationship that is unmatched by other friendships. It started in the movie theatre and blasted off from a rest on a shoulder. Ben knew his life would change the instant Colleen put her head on his shoulder to nap in the movie theatre. What started as a simple ride home ended up as a wild ride into a life that Ben never knew existed. The book is a heartwarming, opposites attract story about beating the odds and still coming out on top, and the way Keortge presents that is a milestone for writing skills. I was able to read the entire story in less than a day, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I just love the way that Ben and Colleen connect with such an unstable social status. For this book, I give it two thumbs all the way up. (Joe R. 2B, Ms. Lasley)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was kind of boring for me. I finished it purely because I started it and I have to finish everything I start. I honestly wouldn't reccommend it.
mattsya on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Many YA novels, when trying to portray an outsider, punk-type character, just get it wrong. Here, Kortge gets his character right not by relying on simple pop culture references, but by creating a truly believable character. Ben and Colleen's relationship is very funny and believable, and Kortge handles description of Ben's cerebral palsy with great dignity. The real power of the novel lies in how it handles the end of the relationship. It is a true growing apart, and an honest realization on Ben's part that he can not save or change Colleen. A very quick read, this could be recommended to most all readers with an interest in the subject matter.
rfewell on LibraryThing 8 months ago
One of the first YA books that I intentionally read. This one was wonderful about a stoner girl and a kid with epilipsy (?).
4sarad on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This definitely felt like a three star book. The premise was interesting... boy with cerebral palsy befriends stoner girl, and the meaning was clear at the end... but it just definitely could have been better. What's it like living with CP? I couldn't tell you, but I should have some sense of it after reading a book where the main character has it. The author really should have gone more in-depth with the characters and expanded the amount of time they're together. I feel like the book just brushed the surface of both their lives and all we get is a glimpse.
KarriesKorner on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is the story of a boy in the special education program at school and a girl who is always stoned on pot. It's an unlikely partnership, but ends up being good for both of them.
sharp3 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Synopsis:As an orphan with cerebral palsy Ben has been raised by his prim and proper Grandmother and has existed the past 16 years of his life as a loner who watches old movies at the local theater. One day his routine is shaken by an accidental run in with the local drug-addict Colleen (i.e. the girl who will do anything high). Ben becomes infatuated with Colleen (she¿s the only person who has ever touched him without recoiling that was not his Grandmother) and eventually the two start dating. As their relationship evolves Ben leaves his self-imposed isolation and interviews his classmates, gaining new perspectives on himself and the world around him. Ultimately Colleen returns to a life of addiction while Ben (who is no longer a self-conscious hermit) moves forward with his lifelong wish to become a director. Review:I didn¿t find Ben to be too much of a sympathetic character. He was likable, but only in a very "realistic way." He comes off as a realistic narrator, one who is self-involved in that way only teenagers can be. Koertge¿s topic of addiction and teenage angst is admittedly a hard one for YA writers to address, however he handles it fairly and gives his characters life without glamorizing their problems. In Koertge's world the addicts genuinely act like addicts, something which might disturb parents and teachers who fancy YA books that record a happier world. Ultimately, the story provides little in the way of substance save for a vague cautionary tale about the perils of drugs and primarily acts as an instructional memoir on how not to be self-involved.
megmcg624 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Stoner & Spaz tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Ben, an isolated loner with cerebral palsy, and Colleen, a punk rocker with a drug problem.The depictions of high school subcultures ring hollow; Koertge's on surer ground with the film scene Ben gets into. Still, it's nice to see a nuanced, sensitive depiction of both druggies and disabled kids.Drug use and sexual content make this a better recommendation for high school readers.
emma_mc on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I liked the characters and their quirks. And I liked where the story was headed. However, this book was so abrupt I didn't feel like there was any rising action whatsoever. Plot, or maybe development of a plot, was lacking.
irisdovie on LibraryThing 8 months ago
My personal response is that the author, Ron Koertge, does not really know how a person might act who likes to smoke marijuana. He completely exaggerates how a person might act if they smoked marijuana. I think that Koertge has possibly never really smoked it, which means he is not writing about what he knows, really, so that part of the story is a little silly. But I do think that he gets the feelings of the boy with CP pretty good. I know someone with a similar disability, and the similarities of personality are somewhat uncanny. I would be a little wary of recommending this book to a teen just because of the obvious exaggeration in relation to marijuana abuse, but would maybe recommend this book to those who know someone who has a disability. I would also mention that in regards to marijuana, the author is a little naïve.
heidigilia on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Grades 10-12Stoner and Spaz gives a look at cerebral palsy from the perspective of sixteen-year-old Ben Bancroft living in Los Angeles. Ben is a lonely high school student with cerebral palsy who lives with his grandmother since his dad died and mom disappeared. Ben enjoys going to the local movie theater and one day finds himself sitting with a girl from his high school, Colleen Minou. Colleen is a drug addict as well as dating the high school drug dealer. Ben and Colleen start to for a strange friendship that helps Ben feel a little more confident. With the help of his neighbor, Marcie, Ben really start to feel he is living life. Rating: 4 starsThis is a great book for older teens and adults to enjoy. It helps give the reader a look at cerebral palsy from the perspective of a young man that is trying to cope with his disability in a humorous and more positive way. Easy to read and very entertaining. There is some content dealing with drugs and sex that might not be appropriate for younger readers.
EdGoldberg on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Stoner & Spaz. Colleen is the stoner, hooked on drugs of any sort; weed, cocaine, whatever. Ben is the spaz, weighed down by the deformities of cerebral palsy. They meet at the Riolto movie theater. Ben spends his solitary Friday nights watching old movies, like the Bride of Frankenstein. Colleen needs to borrow two bucks to buy candy. Ben thinks that's the end, but Colleen ends up sitting next to him to watch the movie. For a kid who's never had a girlfriend, this is as close as he's gotten to a girl in his entire life. And she doesn't treat him like an invalid, a misfit. For a girl who's perpetually stoned, this is the first sober guy she's met in a long time. So, they each have something the other wants and they develop into a real friendship. But is that enough? Is it enough to get Colleen on the straight and narrow? Is it enough for Ben to come out from under his grandmother's thumb and experience the world? Ron Koertge writes great books (see my review of Shakespeare Bats Cleanup and Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs). But while those books were light and humorous, Stoner & Spaz digs deep. Ben lives with a grandmother who barely touches him. And while he's developed a sense of humor to deal with this lack of affection, you know it hurts. Colleen hates a mother who would not believe that her boyfriend might have attempted to abuse Colleen. In a scant 169 pages, Koertge deals with all these issues. If you are into good stories, great characters and a thought provoking plot, then Stoner & Spaz should be your next book. It'll be a nice setup for Now Playing: Stoner & Spaz Part II, the sequel.
hollyhox on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Benjamin Bancroft is a 16-year-old with cerebral palsy who lives with his proper, over-protective grandmother. His only social activity is seeing old movies once a week at a local theater. Ben is a self-taught movie expert who watches classic films he¿s seen many times with an eye for camera angles and set dressing. One day, he runs into Colleen Minou in the theater. She is a blunt-spoken drug addict with no boundaries. They form an unlikely friendship. Colleen challenges Ben's self-pity by joking openly and crudely about his disability and urges him to follow his passion for the cinema and make his own movies. By doing this, she forces Ben to come out of his shell and interact with people around him. Ben inspires Colleen to dump her abusive boyfriend and try to get clean. This book was written in 2002, and the dialogue and language are fresh and funny. There is sex, drugs, and swearing throughout this fast-paced book, but the real story is about connecting with others to help you pursue your dream.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I need a dictionary.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I tried 2 get sample but my nook said it was in my library. Its not. Saddness.... so much saddness
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Tess Mckenzie More than 1 year ago
I loved how 2 very different people became friends, although it seemed a bit unrealistic. Over all, it was pretty good!
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