Study Guide

Crash Tone

By Jerry Spinelli

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Mean, Clueless, Funny, Earnest

Not So Nice

We're going to be honest—throughout a lot of this book, Crash isn't exactly the kind of dude we'd like to be friends with.

It seems like if Crash isn't laughing at someone, he's knocking them over. (And occasionally, he gets wild and does both.) He's also really, really rude. When Crash's new neighbor, Penn, points out his house, Crash says, "That's no house. That's a garage" (2.21). If you think that's funny, think again. It's supposed to sound mean.

Not So Smart…but Plenty Amusing

A lot of times though, the author wants to make fun of Crash a little—just to let us readers know this character is doing everything wrong. Take, for instance, when Mr. Tough Guy grabs the button off Penn's shirt. "I plucked it off his shirt. But there was no hole this time to dump it in. I thought of pinning it on myself, but what did I want with a button that said PEACE? So I gave it back to him" (2.18).

Crash is trying to be intimidating, not funny, but he just makes himself look ridiculous. As readers, we're always laughing at him, not with him.

He Really Means It

Finally, here's a little tip from us to you: wherever there are oatburgers, you will find earnest people eating them.

To wit: as Mr. Webb chows down on his meatless burger, he tells Crash, "We're not poor at all. In fact, I would say in a lot of ways we're rich" (6.44). This is like Tiny Tim-level earnestness, folks.

Plus, there are a lot of morals to the story, including lessons about materialism, the environment, and diversity. Jerry Spinelli isn't just hawking vegetarian recipes; he's really trying to tell us something about the world.

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