Study Guide

Crash Wealth and Materialism

By Jerry Spinelli

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Wealth and Materialism

Chapter 2
John "Crash" Coogan

"Who're you tricking?" I said. "That's no house. That's a garage."

He looked at the place, looked at me. "No, I'm not tricking you. We live there." (2.22-2.23)

We think it's deeply uncool when Crash tries to make Penn feel ashamed of his family's finances. But not to worry: Penn doesn't care what anyone thinks. He's cool like that.

Chapter 5
John "Crash" Coogan

"So where's the rest?"

[…] "The rest of what?"

"Your toys."

He pointed to the wagon. "There it is."

"I mean the rest." I looked under his bed. I nosed into the closet. "Dump trucks. Fire engines. Cars. Cranes. Steam shovels. Batman. Spider-Man." (5.23-5.27)

Penn has one toy. One. Single. Toy. Crash has approximately all the toys. Who do you think appreciates his stuff more?

Chapter 6
John "Crash" Coogan

"So," I said, "are you poor?"


"No," said the father, "we're not poor at all. In fact, I would say in a lot of ways we're rich." (6.40-6.44)

Nice speech, Mr. Webb. What is his message about material things here? And in what ways is the Webb family rich?

Chapter 9

I'd say one-quarter of it is checking out other kids' clothes, and three-quarters is showing off your own. Your new sneaks, your labels. Talking prices. (9.4)

It probably hasn't escaped your notice that Crash is shallow. But what's interesting about this passage is the way he describes the other kids. It sounds like they're pretty shallow, too.

Chapter 20

The sea chest is a trunk filled with stuff he picked up from all over the world. [...]

He held up a key. "I put it in storage."

"Aren't you bringing it with you?" I asked him.

He took out our school pictures, the ones with big frames. "This is the important stuff." He put them on the dresser. (20.17-20.20)

Wow. Scooter has a literal treasure chest, and his favorite thing is Crash's school pictures? That's grandfatherly love for you.

Chapter 22

I wore my new shirt for the first time. My mother had taken the price tag off, but I saw a shirt just like it at the mall. It's worth about ten pan pizzas. (22.12)

Crash tries to derive his self-worth from his expensive shirt, which is very misguided. Still, we love the idea of measuring your wealth in pizzas. Although, if you're into gourmet pizza, you may need to reverse that and measure the worth of your pizza in shirts.

Chapter 32

I entertained myself by trying to picture what [Penn] might get for Christmas. Maybe a nice shirt form Second Time Around with only two holes in it. (32.17)

Okay, this is just rude. Secondhand clothes don't typically come with holes in them. In fact, they're usually in really good condition. Of course, Crash wouldn't know that since he refuses to even consider the idea of entering a thrift shop. Except that he does, accidentally, like two minutes after making this comment.

Chapter 33

Christmas stunk.

[…] For the first time in my life I had to be woken up on Christmas morning. (33.3-33.4)

Crash can't enjoy his presents because he's so upset about Scooter. There's a lesson here, even if Crash can't see it yet: happiness is about the people in your life, not the things that you have.

Chapter 34

Mike got a Jetwater Uzi and a Walkman, which I didn't get. He got a TV, but my old one is bigger, 21 inches to 18 inches for him, plus he doesn't have Auto Sleep Off or Wake Up on his remote, like I do. He got three tapes to my two, but my two cost more than his three. (34.3)

Yikes. That's a lot of time spent comparing loot. How often do you think that Crash uses those fancy remote buttons, anyway? And can anyone really tell the difference between an 18-inch and a 21-inch TV? Maybe Crash shouldn't waste so much time making these meaningless distinctions.

Chapter 49

I used my sneaker money to buy Mom a set of paints. She's going to start painting us all again. (49.7)

Well, well, well. Crash passes up an opportunity to get new kicks to support his mom's interest in art. You know, art, as in the stuff that artists make. Artists like Penn's parents, say.

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