Sure: the melting hands, rampaging Hells Angels, and Grim Reaper cosplay are fun and quirky additions to the ominous murder mystery that drives Dead End in Norvelt's plot. But if we scrape down underneath all that, we discover that Gantos is concerned with issues surrounding wealth and poverty. How is wealth distributed? What can money do—and are there any alternatives to money? What's the difference between a handout and a hand up?
Jack's dad continually complains about being poor, and not having a big enough slice of the "American pie," but we never really see him working hard to better himself and his family.
Dead End in Norvelt suggests that the concept of the American Dream is continually changing.