John “Crash” Coogan is a seventh-grade football star, and I’ll go out on a limb and call him kind of a bully as well. Crash enjoys the fast-paced, macho world of sports, and he lives every other part of his life with the same intense passion. His head-long behavior continues when he meets a new neighbor, Penn Webb, who’s basically the exact opposite. Penn is a quiet, thoughtful boy whose Quaker family doesn’t condone violence, eat meat, or seek out material things. When Crash strikes up a reluctant friendship with Penn, he’s forced to re-think many of his own behaviors.
I loves the way that this book unfolded over the course of the entire school year, so it gives the reader a chance to get to know Crash while organizes his life priorities. The year holds a lot of surprises for Crash, including changes in his parents’ employment, his little sister’s growing social activism, and new friends at school. The most serious concern is his grandfather Scooter’s sudden illness, which serves to remind Crash that having a healthy family and supportive friends is much more important than having nice clothes, toys, or even being popular. At the end of the book, I really appreciated the way that Mr. Spinelli intentionally left the conclusion kind of open and unresolved, almost as if he realized that Crash wasn’t a perfect person but he still wanted to give him more time to improve. It was a very cool and thought-provoking way to close out a fun book!
This book would hold a lot of appeal with any upper-middle-grade readers, especially young men who consider themselves to be sports fans. The hilarious circumstances and quick pacing make “Crash” a fast read, even though it’s not necessarily a short book. Pass a copy along to the jock in your life and I guarantee, this is one book that they won’t be embarrassed to be seen reading in public!