By Ron Koertge
Published by Candlewick Press
Copyright © 2002
The physically disabled and the mentally disabled meet and the fireworks fly in a book which is aiming a little too low for a suitable audience.
16 year-old Benjamin, the Spaz, has CP (Cerebral Palsy). He lives in the cocoon of his grandmother’s house studying old movies and feeling sorry for himself. One night at the Rialto Theater he runs into a classmate, colleen, a tough as nails Stoner, who bums a couple of bucks off of him. Ben knows he is being used, and he knows Colleen is bad news, but it has been so long since anyway has talked to him the way she does that he can’t help but feel drawn to her. Each of them end up giving the other friendship and the listening ear that they desperately need. It is Ben who, trying to harness his passion for film, will learn how tough he really is.
“Stoner & Spaz” is a modern romantic tragedy for the teen set. What a preppy teen with a disability could have in common with the drug addicted girlfriend of a high school thug is hard to imagine, but breaking down stereotypes is very much part of what Koertge is trying to do in this book. He puts his storytelling ability and his knack for smart and realistic dialogue on display.
That being said, it is his realism that keeps me from recommending this book highly. This book is supposed to be aimed at teens 14-17, but the profanity and sexual overtones make this a book more suited for adults or at the very least teens 17 and up. I thoroughly believe that good fiction can help youths cope with life, so there are many teens that may be able to connect with the characters and situations in this book, but I don’t know that I would recommend this book for all teens.