"I like this book a lot, and I LOVE Ben. We need all the truth we can handle about kids like Ben and Colleen, and Ron Koertge’s writing feels deeply, sometimes painfully, true," - Terry Trueman, author of STUCK IN NEUTRAL, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book 2000
From the Hardcover edition.
With a youthful edge to his voice, Hamilton brings a rich credibility to the roles of teenagers Ben and Colleen, stars of Koertge's sharp and emotionally moving YA novel. As two very different kinds of outcasts, drug-addicted Colleen and cerebral palsy-afflicted Ben forge an unlikely friendship that helps each of them blossom. And in the author's true-to-life style, setbacks, successes and uncharted territory await the duo on the path of self-discovery. Hamilton handily masters Koertge's smart, contemporary repartee between the protagonists, capturing each note of sarcasm and humor as well as lots of film and pop-culture references. Hamilton also adds welcome shades of color to supporting characters, including Ben's stuffy, overprotective grandmother. This winning performance, which envisions Ben and Colleen as likable and sympathetic-warts and all-will please fans of Koertge's work and surely gain him new admirers. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
"Stoner" is Colleen Minou¾drug addict, whore, willing when she's high to do anything and to "do" anyone. "Spaz" is Ben Bancroft¾lonely, brainy kid with cerebral palsy who lives with his proper, over-protective grandmother and loses himself in the world of other people's movies. The in-real-life-unlikely but in-fiction-inevitable friendship between these two starkly defined opposites leads to a transformation in Ben's life, as 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. The new neighbor across the street from Ben's grandma just happens to be involved in movie-making herself, and she teaches Ben all he needs to know to make an award-winning documentary of life in his own high school. This novel manages to be both self-consciously edgy (Ben smokes marijuana with Colleen, has sex using a condom, and hears Colleen repeatedly tell him such things as "You're this fucking loser who limps") and somewhat too sweet¾Colleen is a whore with a heart of gold. All the kids at school, even including Colleen's menacing pimp/pusher boyfriend, come to like and respect Ben once he comes out of his self-imposed shell. And even though Colleen's efforts to beat her drug addiction fail (the author's attempt to resist a completely happy ending,) this conveniently frees Ben to pursue the much more suitable, fellow-moviemaker Amy. 2002, Candlewick,
This novel is a good book for teens. All of the characters and situations were very realistic. The high school seemed like a place that you actually might attend. It's a fast, interesting read that probably would be a good book for kids who don't like reading very much. The ending of the story was good because it was right in between a happy or predictable one and a devastating one, which made it satisfying. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Candlewick, 176p,
John Darby, Teen Reviewer
Ben, age 16, is so embarrassed by his cerebral palsy that he spends much of his time hiding out alone in the dark of a movie theater—until he runs into a classmate named Colleen there, a pale, tattooed, blunt-spoken druggie with her own demons to escape. A tentative friendship develops and grows into something more as Colleen draws Ben out of his shell, away from the overprotective grandmother who is raising him, and tries to get herself clean of drugs. At the same time, a new neighbor offers Ben the opportunity to make his own movies, and he interviews fellow students for a film he calls High School Confidential. In the end, their trajectories are clear—Colleen sinks back into her thrill-seeking, self-destructive ways, while Ben's film gets a showing at a gallery, and an admirer plants the idea of film school. The dialogue is what really makes this tale of an odd couple stand out. Koertge, the author of The Brimstone Journals and other YA novels, writes witty repartee that can also stab the heart, and he succeeds in conveying realistically what life is like for these two lonely teenagers struggling to overcome obstacles. (The sex, drugs, and obscenities here are realistic, too.) In a way that few YA authors manage, Koertge describes the often-harsh world of teenagers accurately and unsentimentally. Ben's journey to self-discovery and self-acceptance, told in his wry voice, is sad and funny, convincing and affecting. KLIATT Codes: S*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students. 2002, Candlewick, 176p.,
Gr 9 Up-Author Ron Koertge takes on the difficult teen topics without flinching, and the audio version of this dramatic story (Candlewick, 2002) is just as good as the print version. Flinching is a key theme in this book, as Ben Bancroft, the main character, lets us know that as a person with cerebral palsy, no one has ever looked at him directly without flinching, let alone actually touched him. Ben shies away from confronting his over-protective grandmother, from actively confronting the suicide of his father and his abandonment by his mother, and from truly relating to anyone in his high school. In spite of all this, he is a very together young man, living vicariously through old movies until he has a close encounter with Colleen Minou, one of his school's most whacked-out druggies. Surprisingly, it is Colleen who won't flinch, who actually touches Ben in every possible way, who encourages him in his filmmaking, and lets him help her-at least temporarily-into sobriety. Narrator Josh Hamilton gives a perfect voice to Ben and also manages through modulations of his tone and pitch to convincingly portray the grandmother, Colleen, and a neighbor who aids in the filmmaking plot line. By the end, Colleen and Ben are once again on opposite sides of many questions, but Ben has changed dramatically and we can hope for something better for Colleen in the future. Listeners will find this story riveting. The concerns of real teens come through in vivid dialogue and film-shot narratives. The sensitive topic of sexuality makes this a book for older teen readers, and it deserves a place in any collection that serves them.-Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"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)