Stoner & Spaz

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Stoner & Spaz Book Poster Image
Edgy, sardonic book is OK for mature readers.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 12 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

A fight, not described.

Sex

References to masturbation, oral sex, molestation, homosexuality. A sex scene, not graphic.

Language

Teen dialogue containing four-letter words, plus references to "darkies."

Consumerism

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.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13 year old Written byLizzieMeg October 14, 2009

excellent

For mature 12 year olds and up....this book is very excellent
Adult Written bylibrarypatrons April 9, 2008
Teen, 16 years old Written byPinkFloydKid March 23, 2012

A Suprisingly Relatable Book

I honestly underwent a situation much like this a while back. Granted, I don't have C.P., but the girl i was with was very much like Colleen. It was like s... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byChicklett April 9, 2008

Love this book

OMG i love this book so much i borrowed it from the library and read the whole thing in one day i couldnt put it down the characters seemed so interesting and t... Continue reading

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?

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