Walker shouldn’t have been so surprised to find Jesus standing in the middle of his bedroom. After all, he’d prayed for whoever was up there to help him, and to help his mom, who hadn’t stopped crying since Noah died two months ago. But since when have prayers actually been answered? And since when has Jesus been so . . . irreverent? But as astounding as Jesus’ sudden appearance is, it’s going to take more than divine intervention for Walker to come to terms with his brother’s sudden death. Why would God take seventeen-year-old Noah when half of the residents in his mom’s nursing home were waiting to die? And why would he send Jesus to Coaltown, Illinois, to pick up the pieces? In a spare and often humorous text, renowned poet Ron Koertge tackles some of life’s biggest questions — and humanizes the divine savior in a way that highlights the divinity in all of us.
Once upon a time, there was a strung-out match girl who sold CDs to stoners. Twelve impetuous sisters escaped King Daddy’s clutches to jiggle and cavort and wear out their shoes. A fickle Thumbelina searched for a tiny husband, leaving bodies in her wake. And Little Red Riding Hood confessed that she kind of wanted to know what it’s like to be swallowed whole. From bloodied and blinded stepsisters (they were duped) to a chopped-off finger flying into a heroine’s cleavage, this is fairy tale world turned upside down. Written in free verse honed to a wicked edge, the twenty-three iconic fairy tales in this collection are given a dark and contemporary slant.
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.
Fourteen-year-old Kevin Boland has a passion for playing baseball, a knack for writing poetry—and a cute girlfriend named Mira who’s not much interested in either. But then, Kevin doesn’t exactly share Mira’s newfound fervor for all things green. So when Kevin signs up for open mike night at Bungalow Books and meets Amy, a girl who knows a sonnet from a sestina and can match his emails verse for verse, things start to get sticky. Should he stay with Mira? Or risk spoiling his friendship with Amy by asking her out?
Larry, Teresa, and Elliot are so tight, there’s no room in their circle for more than three: boy, girl, boy. And when they graduate, they plan to move to California to start their real lives—together. But who are they fooling? Larry is gay and trying to come to terms with his sexuality. Teresa is tired of hanging out with boys she loves who don’t want to be her boyfriend. And Elliot is realizing that he may like himself more if he isn’t always in the shadow of his friends.
Sixteen-year-old Ted O’Connor’s parents just died in a fiery car crash, and now he’s stuck with a set of semi-psycho foster parents, two foster brothers—Astin, the cocky gearhead, and C.W., the sometimes gangsta—and an inner-city high school full of delinquents. He’s having pretty much the worst year of his miserable life. Or so he thinks. Is it possible that becoming an orphan is not the worst thing that could have happened to him?
Listening to music 24/7. Hanging out with his slacker-stoner friend, Andy. Basically, Ryan’s been sleepwalking through life since his younger sister died of cancer two years ago. But when Charlotte Silano—a gorgeous, popular senior way out of his league—has a riding accident and falls into a coma, Ryan finds himself drawn to her hospital room almost every day, long after her friends stop coming around. And oddly enough, Ryan seems to be slowly snapping out of his own brand of coma—working out at the gym, adopting a cool vintage hat, even easing into a relationship with Betty, a classmate who has her own reasons for visiting Charlotte.
She’s drop-dead gorgeous, has a razor-sharp wit, and is a charter member of the school’s most popular clique. Margaux (with an x) is the dream catch of every teenage male within her radar. Encouraged by her caustic friend Sara, she’s perfected the art of the sarcastic tease, while keeping her sweaty-palmed suitors just far enough at bay. It’s a dreary game, but at least she’s not home with Mom, the shopping channel addict, Dad, the professional gambler, and a certain haunting secret from her past. Then along comes Danny Riley—a scrawny, weak-chinned, animal-loving oddball with a quaint chivalrous streak, a kindhearted kid who can match her banter to the polysyllable and who harbors a few painful memories of his own.
When MVP Kevin Boland gets the news that he has mono and won’t be seeing a baseball field for a while, he suddenly finds himself scrawling a poem down the middle of a page in his journal. To get some help, he cops a poetry book from his dad’s den—and before Kevin knows it, he’s writing in verse about stuff like, Will his jock friends give up on him? What’s the deal with girlfriends? Surprisingly enough, after his health improves, he keeps on writing, about the smart-talking Latina girl who thinks poets are cool, and even about his mother, whose death is a still-tender loss. Written in free verse with examples of several poetic forms slipped into the mix, including a sonnet, haiku, pastoral, and even a pantoum, this funny, poignant story by a master of dialogue is an English teacher’s dream—sure to hook poetry lovers, baseball fanatics, mono recoverers, and everyone in between.
Life has not been easy lately for sixteen-year-old Walker. His father has died, his girlfriend has moved away, and the family finances are in a shambles. Finally it seems as if things are looking up: Walker has a date with Rachel, the beautiful new girl in his class, and his mother has announced she’s gotten a job. Only not your average, run-of-the-mill mom’s job. Walker’s mother is going to work as a stripper. What if his friends find out? What if Rachel finds out? Coincidentally, Walker’s dad has left him a piece of land on which Rachel’s father is scheming to build a mall, and after seeing the land, Walker goes about the hard work of farming it—and the hard work of being in love for the first time.
From the moment sixteen-year-old Billy steps off the train in Tucson, he knows this will be a summer unlike any he’s seen in small-town Bradleyville, Missouri. For starters, he’s staying with his cool gay uncle, who has managed to get him a job at the racetrack caring for horses. Still, Billy doesn’t expect the horseracing world to be quite as rough and tumble as this—toiling side by side with a macho survivalist and falling hard for the feisty, romance-shy “exercise girl” Cara Mae. With his trademark fast-paced dialogue filled with wit and compassion, Ron Koertge tells the tale of an insecure teen who discovers that gaining stature involves more than Stetsons and boots—and that lessons on love and manhood come from the places you least expect.
For sixteen-year-old Ben Bancroft—a kid with cerebral palsy, no parents, and an overprotective grandmother—the closest thing to happiness is hunkering alone in the back of the Rialto Theatre watching Bride of Frankenstein for the umpteenth time. Of course he waits for the lights to dim before making an entrance, so that his own lurching down the aisle doesn’t look like an ad for Monster Week. The last person he wants to run into is drugged-up Colleen Minou, resplendent in ripped tights, neon miniskirt, and an impressive array of tattoos. But when Colleen climbs into the seat beside him and rests a woozy head on his shoulder, Ben has that unmistakable feeling that his life is about to change.
Also By Ron Koertge:
W.W. Norton 1980
The Boy in the Moon
Little Brown & Co. 1990
Little Brown & Co. 1991
The Harmony Arms (An Avon Flare Book)
Joy Street Books 1992
Confess-O-Rama (Laurel Leaf Books)
Laurel Leaf/Random House
Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright (An Avon Camelot Book)
Orchard Books 1994
Heart Of The City
Orchard Books 1998