Author: Jerry Spinelli
"Crash" Coogan got his nickname when after receiving a football helmet as a present for Christmas he crashed into, deliberately I might add, his cousin and sent her flying. The story is legendary, even if he can't remember it, it defines him.
Penn is Crash's new neighbor. This scrawny little boy is unlike anybody Crash has ever met before. He's a vegetarian, anti-violence, nature loving boy and Crash does not like him. Crash has always been number one, he never backs down, but certain changes in his life might just convince him that Penn might not be as bad as he paints him out to be.
I have to comment on this cover first. Wow. This has to be the weirdest and most unique cover I've ever come across. I was going to write how I don't understand where the mustache came along but duh! I just realized why and I'm not telling! Spinelli is a favorite author of mine who wrote two of my favorite books - Maniac Magee and Wringer. I strike gold with him again. Maybe not Maniac Magee worthy but he spins the life of this, there's no other word for it, bully and makes us like his character from beginning to end and making us attached to his story as he progresses through his life.
Now I should mention that Crash isn't a huge bully. He can be, like a brother is, confrontational with his little sister but he's not mean really. He's not intentionally mean to her where he seeks her out to mess with her like he does with Penn. I feel so sorry for Penn because he doesn't even know Crash and Mike (his best friend) are messing with him! He thinks they are friends. Penn is just the sweetest. He rides his turtle around in a wagon! He always has a different button that has things on it like peace and love and all very cutesy sayings on them. As well as buttons with sayings to have a better world.
Penn and his parents are all about being good people and trying to help save nature. They are on the older side and he's there little miracle baby. I see him as a nerdy type or at least has the look because he gets his clothes at the thrift shop. He's very happy all the time and doesn't even seem to mind he doesn't have a TV. You read correctly. I'm sure like me you may be thinking how you would die without television. I never got how that's a good thing. Only because you need to know what's going on in the world through news. It's important that you know if a hurricane is a comin'.
But the thing that got me about the whole lack of TV situation and the way Penn acts is the way Crash does. He can't fathom the no TV or not having his clothes or presents name brand. Spinelli is trying to show his readers and ask them what's wrong with this picture? Here's Penn, this nice kid who doesn't have much or want much and then there's Crash who can be very mean and selfish and he wants it all. Spinelli intentionally points out this difference between the regular child who is more accepted than the quiet nice kid. It had me thinking how materialistic we really are. So it's kind of lessony but it's not subtle.
I really liked Crash. All throughout even if he was mean to Penn. He was just a kid and something about him didn't want me to blame him for what he was doing. He was just very likable which is good because it's hard to get people to like bullies. Once his grandfather came you couldn't say you didn't like him. He started to think about Penn and his great grandfather as well as how he's been treating him. When a guy's feeling down it's not really important anymore whether or not another person is acting weird. This does not go down well with his best friend Mike who's exactly like him but goes too far one time with a prank.
Crash was also very amusing especially when he tried to get a girl (friend of Penn who looks like a woman to Crash if you know what I mean) to dance with him. She jabbed her hands into her hips. She glared. "Who do you think you are?" I grinned. I don't know if I got the words from a movie or what, but they were there: "I'm the answer to your dreams, baby." She did exactly what you would have if you heard him say that to you. He has so much to learn... He does things like that. He speaks before he thinks. He crashes into everything even with his words.
Crash and Penn make an odd pair but together Spinelli was able to create a story about what's really important in life through kids who can be just like any one of us. Spinelli knows realism and he likes to push what we think into a different direction by showing points of view of the other guys. The kids who do things or say things that push the envelope. I greatly enjoyed reading about Crash and know that this book will keep you thinking. Who can do that so expertly but Spinelli?