Now Playing by Ron Koertge Book Review

Now Playing: Stoner & Spaz II by Ron Koertge
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: August 9, 2011

Ben Bancroft is still riding high after successfully completing a documentary for a film festival. His girlfriend Colleen is just high. Struggling with his feelings about Colleen and looking to the future, Ben begins to wonder what other people really see when they look at him. Do they see the withered arm and loping gait from cerebral palsy or do they see something else, something better?

As you can tell, I am catching up on some of my older reading. The first book, Stoner & Spaz was a book that I used as a positive example of disabilities in middle grade and young adult book, which was the focus of my Master's critical thesis. One of the most important elements I found to a create a good story with disabilities was that the story couldn't be about just the disability. Should you remove the disability from the story, there should still be some sort of plot. Despite his cerebral palsy and the fact that he thinks about it often, the real plot has nothing to do with Ben's disability. Instead this story is really about his relationship with Colleen.

Colleen's story takes center stage this time. Raised in a life full of neglect, abuse, and sexual predators, Colleen struggles for normality, often resorting to drugs to dull her reality. Ben doesn't always know how to deal with her and does question whether he should even be dating her. However, Colleen is also ballsy and when Ben goes to find his mother who abandoned him, it is Colleen who helps put everyone at ease.

My only complaint is that the plot was a bit meandering. Without a focus like the documentary film festival, the plot sped up and slowed down at a pace that was as wonkey as Ben's gait. Ben's mother was so strange and detached that I never really understood what was going on with her. How does someone that slow and out of it hold down a job and get an apartment? Although I was glad to see another book about Ben I still worry about him. Colleen, despite her wanton ways, really is a walking disaster and Ben can't fix her. Will he stay with her once he graduates and goes on to college? I just don't see that happening, no matter how much effort he puts into their relationship.

As promised and for the sake of posterity, Ron Koertge was one of the faculty advisers at Hamline University where I got my MFA.