A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The book can be a great vehicle for discussions on drug abuse with your teen, especially as one character openly questions why drugs are illegal.
Coming-of-age themes as both characters grow through their relationship. Ben may not ultimately win Colleen (or keep her clean), but he certainly matures and is able to see himself in a new light.
Positive Role Models
Stoner and Spaz may not always behave perfectly, but 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. Through their friendship, they become more complex than their derogatory monikers.
Violence & Scariness
A fight, not described.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
References to masturbation, oral sex, molestation, homosexuality. A sex scene, not graphic.
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Teen dialogue containing four-letter words, plus references to "darkies."
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Products & Purchases
Product and store names used.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A main character uses tobacco, marijuana, and cocaine, tries to go straight, but falls back into using. Some approving comments about drugs, and wondering why marijuana is illegal.
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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.
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
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