Ron Koertge's spot-on repartee highlights the wry, poignant tale of a teen who is numbed by loss but finds an unusual route to reclaiming his life.
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. With his incisive humor and quick-fire repartee, Ron Koertge explores the unpredictable workings of grief and the healing power of self-reinvention.
About the Author
Ron Koertge is the author of many celebrated novels, including Strays, Margaux With An X, Stoner And Spaz, The Arizona Kid, Where the Kissing Never Stops, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, and The Brimstone Journals. He lives in South Pasadena, California.
Read an Excerpt
I’m washing my hands in the bathroom a couple of doors down from the principal’s office. Washing and rinsing. Soaping up again. Washing and rinsing.
In the mirror it’s Tim Boynton, a guy I used to play soccer with. I nod at his reflection.
"Anything goin’ on?" He’s grinning big.
I tell him, "Ask Andy."
He flashes a couple of bills. "I’m asking you. Just a couple of joy sticks."
"I don’t deal, Tim."
"You did a couple of weeks ago."
"It was a favor to Andy, all right? A onetime thing."
"So where’s Andy?"
I hit the little button on the soap dispenser and start in one last time. "Dunno."
Tim puts the money away. Now he’s disgruntled.
"Well, tell him I’m looking for him."
I turn on the hot water and watch my hands wrestle with each other.
I run into Andy right after sixth period. "Tim Boynton’s looking for you."He gets me by the arm. "Took care of him in gym. C’mon. We’re going to Saint Mary’s. Charlotte Silano fell off her horse."
Andy scatters some ninth-graders who are jammed up at the bottom of the big concrete stairs. First of all, he’s a senior. Second of all, he’s huge. Or maybe it’s just that he’s huge. Anyway, they scatter.
I tell him, "Somebody said she broke her leg."
"Or her neck," he says. "Or is unconscious or, like, died."
"She’s not dead. If she was dead, there’d be an announcement. And not to sound too callous, but what do you care, anyway?"
"Are you kidding? She bankrolled a party every couple of weeks. My PR people tell me customers appreciate the human touch. Christmas cards, ‘how’s the wife and kids,’ a firm handshake. That kind of thing. So we’ll go by, and I’ll say how sorry I am to hear about her unfortunate accident.That way she’ll remember me the next time her and her friends get together to count their money."
"I don’t like hospitals."
He opens the door to his old Toyota, the only car in the lot with duct tape holding on its back bumper. "Five minutes away."
I stop with my hand on the corroded handle. "And I really don’t want to go to Saint Mary’s."
He gets in, starts the car, then pats the dash like it’s part of a big animal. "Keep me company. Wait in the lot if you want. I’ll be like three minutes. Then I’ll take you home."
I look toward the street, where about nine thousand kids are waiting. Andy knows what I’m thinking.
"Forget the stupid bus." He takes a spliff out of his shirt pocket, the place anyone else would carry a gel pen. "Look what I’ve got." His voice is teasing, playful, and insinuating. I feel like I ought to say, "My, what big teeth you have."
When we get in the car, I reach for the weed, glance around to see if anybody’s looking (anybody with a badge), then light it and take a hit. "Okay, but I’m waiting outside."
"Fine. You can guard the car. This baby’s worth a fortune in Bangladesh."
We’re easing out of the lot when Chris Teagarden backs out right in front of us in his red Mustang. Andy has to hit the brakes, and I reach for the dash to brace myself. I’ve got the seat belt on, but it just hangs there like a sash. Chris gives us the finger like the almost accident was our fault,then patches out.
Andy has both arms around the steering wheel, and he’s leaning his chin on his right hand. He looks almost thoughtful. "I hate that guy," he says calmly.
I reach into my backpack for my player, put the little earplugs in, and lean back. The window on my side is permanently down, so there’s always a breeze in Andy’s car. To my right is the long, roiled-up lawn of LBJ High.It’s a big, old-fashioned building with pillars in front and stone lions that flank the main steps. The stoned lions, as they are popularly know, because of their sleepy, semiblissful expressions. Inside, the ceilings are very high, like students fifty years ago were lanky with long necks andlegs. Now we’re short with metal in our tongues and ears.
A bunch of ninth-graders plunge through the crosswalk. They’ve all got small faces, and most of them are still wearing clothes their mothers insist on. A couple of the boys are holding basketballs like mementos of theFrench Revolution. To make that image complete, one of them has drawn droopy eyes and a frowny face on his Rawlings Special.
We take Foothill Boulevard to the hospital. It’s maybe ten blocks.
I sing along with the Killers’ "For Reasons Unknown" and let the dope run its hand down my ruffled fur.
"Hey, man, you asleep?"
I shake my head. "I’m fine."
"Senior history’s driving me nuts. What the hell’s the cold war?"
I sit up a little. "About fifty years’ worth of trash talk between the U.S. and the USSR. They were our allies during World War II, and then they got all feisty. When’s your paper due?"
Andy glides over into the right lane. "You’re so suspicious."
"When’s it due, Andy?"
At the stoplight we’re idling next to a black Maxima. The driver is this thirty-something lady who’s really put together: hair, eyes, jewelry. Everything matches everything else. Long dark hair like Charlotte Silano. Skin like hers. Charlotte Silano all grown-up.
Andy says, "Like next week."
I ask, "How many pages?"
"Four to six."
"I can handle that."
He reaches across and into the glove compartment, an easy move because the little door is somewhere in the backseat. He shows me a tightly wound joint. "Maui Wauie," he says. "You know how regular weed gives you the munchies for chocolate? The guy I got this from claims you smoke a little of this and you want pineapple and poo."
He nods. "I knew that sounded wrong."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I will start by acknowledging my love of all things Koertge. He is one of my favorite YA authors and I always enjoy his books. This one was no exception. He manages to combine wittiness and poignancy. Ryan, the main character, feels like a fully realized teen. Unhappy and constantly stoned, Ryan can't deal with the death of his little sister. Slowly, and with the help of a comatose class mate, he discovers that he needs to change in order to live the life he deserves. Quirky and honest, Koertge made me smile yet again.
This book is about a boy who has lost his little sister and how this has effected his life. There is a very positive message and it is a quick read.
I've read a couple of Koertge's books-Stoner & Spaz, Margaux with an X-and I certainly remembered them. They're always a little off-kilter-intriguing.
This one was slow compared to the other two I read. The artists Ryan listens to, Griffin and Clancy, were definitely new for me, But there were some lines that I liked a lot: -reboot my mind after talking to her, (that was a great one)
Overall get ready to slide down in the seat, and have internet access ready, because there are a lot of artists in this book, that <might> need sampling.
The most popular girl in school fell off a horse and she's now in a coma in a nearby hospital. Ryan finds himself drawn to her bedside, even though he is most definitely not in her social circle or even the distant stratosphere of her world. Does he visit her because she is perhaps the hottest girl in school, or because he hopes to move in on her absent boyfriend's territory, or because two years ago he lost his own sister in her battle against cancer?
The strange thing is that Ryan doesn't really know why he visits this girl in a coma. It's just something he feels he must do.
Running parallel to the Charlotte Silano coma-girl story are several other captivating plot lines.
Ryan's visits to the hospital allow him to meet and develop a relationship with Betty, another girl from school who previously didn't really hang in the same crowd with Ryan. There is also the strained relationship between Ryan and his parents. He maintains a fairly normal mother/son relationship, but the connection between father and son has deteriorated to almost nothing since the death of his sister, Molly. It's not just a problem for Ryan, since his father has seemingly cut ties with his wife, as well. He has changed his whole lifestyle, right down to his choice of a vegan menu. Ryan's mother has chosen to throw herself into yoga and meditation to cope with the loss of her daughter. It seems a healthy avenue to stress relief, but she appears to be getting a bit too close to her instructor, causing Ryan to fear for his parents' marriage.
One benefit of Ryan's frequent visits to Charlotte's hospital room is that he is putting some distance between his so-called friend, Andy, and the never-ending supply of pot that has so far been getting him through his periods of grief. Is it possible to stay sober and confront tough times long enough to pull himself together? That's the question facing Ryan for most of DEADVILLE.
Ron Koertge successfully takes readers into Ryan's world of emotional stress and pain. Everyone has their own way of coping, and DEADVILLE illustrates them all in a direct, straight-forward style.