16 August 2011

Title: Now Playing (Stoner & Spaz #2)
Author: Ron Koertge
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 208 Pages (August 9th 2011)
From: the Publisher, Thank You!

Synopsis: Quick repartee. Unsparing wit. Insight, poignancy, and spot-on characters. Welcome the much-awaited sequel to the acclaimed Stoner & Spaz.

Beautiful but troubled Colleen Minou is the only girl who ever looked at Ben Bancroft as more than a spaz— more than just that kid with cerebral palsy. Yet the more time Ben spends with her, the more glaring their differences appear. Is what Ben feels for Colleen actual affection, or more like gratitude? Then there’s Amy (aka A.J.), who is everything Colleen isn’t, and everything Ben’s grandma wants for him: clean-cut and upper-class, academically driven, just as obsessed with filmmaking as Ben is. But what does A.J. see when she looks at Ben? CP? Or the person behind the twisted body? In Ron Koertge’s sharp, darkly humorous follow-up to the award-winning Stoner & Spaz, Ben tries to come to terms with his confused feelings toward A.J. and his inimitable connection to Colleen, who is sometimes out of it, sometimes into him, and always exhilarating.

Review: 3 Stars - Now Playing by Ron Koertge is the sequel to the 2004 title Stoner & Spaz. With seven years passing between the first book and the second, Koertge picked right up where he left his characters with the continuation of their story.

Ben is your normal teen boy. He’s creative, sweet and wants a girlfriend just like every sixteen year old boy does. However he has cerebral palsy, so it makes him different on the outside. There’s one thing that I just can’t get past with Ben, his views on himself and his CP. I can only assume when you have a disease that changes your physical appearance that you’d have some inner dialog with yourself, which would somewhat be their own assumptions as to how the world truly views your condition.. such as Ben’s views of himself… that he keeps to himself. I felt for the kid and when he forgets about his disease, I forgot about it too. He’s a great character with a passion for movies – watching and making them. I really do enjoy reading this character.

With Colleen in his life, he has a chance to have some of things he wants more than anything. To have a girlfriend who sees Ben as just… Ben. Now, Colleen isn’t the best person in the world, but this time around we get a better understanding as to where she came from and how she ended up where she is today. She’s extremely flawed in her how ways, from her upbringing to the numerous wrong choices she makes, but Ben does have a way of grounding Colleen, which makes the two a wacky pair that works. Their relationship has always been a bumpy one. Neither is perfect, each has their own up hill battles and issues they need to work through, but they always seem to end up back together again.

It was great to be able to see where Ben and Colleen are at in their lives. To see how their relationship progressed from the first book to this one. Also to see how they might have changed as characters. If there ever is another book, I would be very interested in reading it, without a doubt.

Stoner & Spaz wasn’t what I thought it would be and Now Playing was a great follow up. Anyone who’s looking for some very interesting characters with issues and heart should pick up both of these books and give them a read. Koertge, I applaud you and any other author who can take seven years between the first book and its sequel and have it feel more like it was from one day to the next.

Play It Again, Ron

Ron Koertge

            To my surprise, I’ve written two sequels in the last three or four years. First Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs (the sequel to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup), and more recently Now Playing:  Stoner & Spaz II, the sequel to Stoner & Spaz.
            Quite a few people have asked me how that happened. When did I start planning the sequels, and are there more of them waiting in the wings.
            Beats me, folks. I tend to write what calls to me. After the first Shakespeare novel-in-verse I revisited a lot of fairy tales, and Candlewick Press will publish that book next year. I started (and stopped!) a novel in the form of a play. I wrote many, many poems for alleged grown-ups since my other job is as a straight-up poet. Some of those poems were about the Greek gods. A dozen were about Dagwood and his family. I had plenty to do to keep me busy. 
            Then I found myself thinking about Kevin, the hero/narrator of  Shakespeare Bats Cleanup. He seemed to want to see me again. Maybe he just wanted to write more poems (he’s a thirteen-year old poet and first baseman). 
            Turns out that was true. And he had his eye on a cute girl named Amy. How was he going to write sestinas and pantoums and sonnets and see how things worked out with Amy if I didn’t go back to work?
            The impulse to see what Ben and Colleen (the principals in S&S) were up to came from another source. A friend of mine told me she’d been seeing Colleen-types pretty much everywhere she went. In L.A., it’s not that hard to find tattooed young women bristling with attitude, but it was the abundance of them that got Lou’s attention. She said, “Do you think Colleen wants to get in touch with you?”
            So I asked. I talk to myself before I go to sleep, anyway. Immediately I dreamed about Colleen. So that was that.
            I love writing about Colleen. Her potty mouth and take-no-prisoners attitude is right up my alley. I was glad to tap into her energy again even though sometimes it was like sticking my wet finger into a hot light socket. 
            So am I through with her and Ben now? And how about Kevin and Amy? The answer is this: Only they know. I’m serious. If Ben or Colleen or Kevin or Amy turns up with a van full of energy, I am more than willing to go along for the ride.
            I have to admit that the word trilogy has a nice ring to it.

Photo credit: Sonya Sones
Five lucky winners will receive Ron Koertge's NOW PLAYING: STONER & SPAZ II. To enter, send an e-mail to NowPlayingGiveaway@gmail.com. In the body of the e-mail, include your name, mailing address, and e-mail address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and e-mail address). One entry per person; prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 8/25/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 8/26/11 and notified via email.With this blog tour, Ron is launching his website--http://ronkoertge.com/.

The next stop on Ron's tour is The Book Monsters at http://www.thebookmonsters.com/.

FTC Disclaimer: I did NOT pay for this book, nor have I been compensated at all in any way or means for reading and writing this HONEST review.

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