Now Playing has the same characters as the original; Ben’s Grandmother and guardian, and their across the street neighbor, Marcie, who got Ben into film making. As such, it tracks Ben and Colleen’s relationship, her attempt at rehab, and her leaving home. But the book adds some new characters: AJ who Ben met at his film showing and who shows an interest in him. AJ’s the second ‘normal’ girl to not be repelled by Ben’s physical condition. She’s the complete opposite of Colleen. While Colleen dresses in short skirts and torn shirts and has tattoos, AJ is upper crust, clean and cute. We also meet Ben’s mother, Delia, who dropped Ben on his grandmother’s doorstep when he was quite young and disappeared from his life forever. It’s Colleen’s snooping and finding an address for her that forces Ben to meet her. So, readers are introduced to a character with emotional issues in addition to Ben’s physical ones and Colleen’s drug issues.
While the plot of Now Playing is interesting, it is the dialogue between Ben and Colleen, their relationship with all its ups and downs, and their commitment that are compelling. How often does one see someone love another unconditionally? Koertge introduces some new issues in Now Playing and plays out some of the old issues. While part of his ending is idealistic, part of it is realistic and hopeful, not necessarily pat and tied in a bow. Now Playing: Stoner & Spaz II is a must read for anyone who liked the original. However, it is a standalone book and people who aren’t familiar with the first book will still enjoy it.