A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that one main character in this book uses drugs and wonders why they're illegal. In the end she goes back to using drugs. There is some gritty language as well as references to masturbation, oral sex, molestation, homosexuality, and a (not graphic) sex scene. But teen readers will likely take something else away: Through a unique friendship, Colleen makes Ben begin to see how he's been wasting his life holding
himself aloof from everyone out of self-pity. And Ben helps Colleen
begin to make her way out of her haze of drugs, at least temporarily. They become more complex than their
derogatory monikers -- and Ben in particular matures and is able to see himself in a new light.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Ben, a teen with cerebral palsy and an obsession with movies, has been properly brought up by his prim, overprotective, but caring grandmother. Colleen, his classmate, is a drug addict and dealer who sleeps around. Together they are ''Stoner & Spaz'' When at their first meeting Colleen vomits down the side of Ben's grandmother's car, their unlikely friendship doesn't seem destined to last. But each treats the other as a real human being, something neither has experienced before. And, since Colleen's jock boyfriend isn't threatened by Ben and is even, in his own fatheaded way, kind to him, they begin spending a lot of time together, despite Grandmother's disapproval. Colleen makes Ben begin to see how he's been wasting his life holding himself aloof from everyone out of self-pity. And Ben helps Colleen begin to make her way out of her haze of drugs, at least temporarily.
Is it any good?
Ben tells the story, and his sardonic view of teen life, and of himself, is mostly amusing and clever, and the part of his humor that is self-pitying is knocked flat by Colleen's wicked directness. Though it's Ben's voice and story, the book is really about Colleen, a charming, if disgusting, junkie who's too smart to be behaving this stupidly.
Poet and novelist Ron Koertge's forte is tight, witty dialogue, and he uses it to great effect here. Conversations between Ben and Colleen, his grandmother, his neighbor, and his classmates sparkle with sharp patter reminiscent of '40s movies. This brief, fast-moving, funny story, with doses of sex, swearing, and drugs, will keep even reluctant teen readers turning the pages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the book's title. Why do you think the author chose Stoner and Spaz rather than Colleen and Ben? Is it just to grab attention -- or does it work on another level? You're not supposed to judge a book by its cover -- or title -- but do you?
Parents who want to delve more deeply into the plot can talk about drug use, and how it defines every aspect of Colleen's life. Do you think she'll ever stay clean? What would you have done if you were in Ben's shoes?