Our boy Crash—the main character in Crash—is an extremely intense young dude. His motto is totally "Hulk smash!" On or off the football field, he loves to tackle people. Oh, what's that you say? You're a girl? Sorry, chica, you're still going down. And if you think your grandpa is getting a pass just because he's old and frail, well, you've got another think coming.
In Crash's world, even poor, old Penn, a Quaker who wears a button that says "peace," is basically asking for it. Do you think Crash was just born mad? Or is something else going on?
Crash is a book that portrays bullies as silly and wrongheaded.
Crash is aggressive because he doesn't know how to deal with his feelings.
Crash is a dude's dude. A bro, even. He's a stereotypical football player who loves to get in fights and mock the weak. He thinks he's God's gift to women, football, and maybe just the world in general. You know the type.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Penn, who's into nonviolence and cheerleading. He's the object of a lot of teasing in Crash because of it, but on some level, our main character—ahem, Crash—seems to really be afraid. He says some pretty mean things about Penn, but the novel's positioning of Crash as a bad guy means that we're supposed to question his rudeness, not endorse it.
Crash's characterization upholds gender stereotypes surrounding men and masculinity.
Penn's characterization busts gender stereotypes surrounding men and masculinity.
Crash seems to have a mixed message when it comes to women and homemaking. On one hand, the book's female characters don't conform to traditional gender roles. Mrs. Coogan is not the cook in her family. (That would be Scooter, Crash's grandfather.) Crash's sister, Abby, couldn't care less about clothes, and it's her brother who's afraid of mice.
Mrs. Coogan works just as hard outside of the home as her husband until the end of the book, when she dramatically cuts her hours so she'll have more time with her family. Seems like it could have been more interesting—and more in line with the book's message—if Mr. Coogan had cut his hours instead. Especially since he's trying to start a business while Mrs. C already seems pretty established in hers.
But who knows? Maybe he makes the big bucks, and it's easier for her to cut back. What do you think?
Mrs. Coogan's and Abby's characterizations bust stereotypes surrounding women and femininity.
Mrs. Coogan's and Abby's characterizations uphold stereotypes surrounding women and femininity.
In Crash, the one thing that Penn and Crash have in common is their dedication to their families. These guys love their parents but, for each of them, their primary support person is someone from their extended family. For Penn, it's his great-grandfather Henry. For Crash, it's Scooter.
Penn seems to get a lot more quality time with his parents than Crash does since his parents work all the time. It's an open question whether or not that's what makes Penn the better adjusted of the two boys. What's your take?
Crash is a novel about traditional family values.
Crash is a novel about modern family values.
Crash is weird in that he's really into stuff like clothes and toys, but at the same time, he doesn't seem to care about that at all. Early in the novel, when Penn won't play with water guns, Crash stomps his own toy to bits.
You would think that someone who's so materialistic wouldn't want to destroy his own stuff. But for Crash, his pleasure has very little to do with the stuff itself; it's about how the act of owning things—and other people seeing him own things—makes him feel.
Throughout Crash, we see that material things make Crash feel powerful and fulfilled because he's not getting those feelings from other areas of his life. By the same token, Crash's insults about Penn's tiny house can't hurt Penn because he doesn't need a big house to feel fulfilled. That need is satisfied by his loving family.
Crash is a novel about the emptiness of shopping and consumerism.
Crash doesn't say that shopping itself is a problem—it's more that people put too much emphasis on labels.
Crash is a novel about the difficulty of communicating with other people.
For Scooter, this problem is literal. After his stroke, he can only say one word, and that one word is gibberish. And yet, people still seem to understand him, more or less.
Crash, on the other hand, has tons of words to use, but his emotions are so confusing that he has a hard time articulating them. Similarly, the gestures he uses to express those emotions make no sense at all. He grabs Penn's button and then hands it right back to him. He leaves a meatball on the Webb family's porch.
Like "a-bye," Scooter's word, when Crash tries to express himself, it comes out as nonsense.
Crash is about the perils of communication.
Crash is about the importance of finding an effective way to communicate with others.
Crash is a love story of sorts, just not a romantic one. Instead, it's a portrait of platonic friendship. Crash has two close friends over the course of the novel. The first is Mike, with whom he has a lot in common. The second is Penn, who's about as different as he can be.
At first, Crash is drawn to what he knows. Over time, though, he realizes that maybe Mike is actually a nightmare person. Crash asks himself some hard questions about what a friend should or shouldn't be—and becomes a better person in the process.
From the first time they met, Crash secretly liked Penn. It just takes him a long time to admit it.
Crash didn't like Penn at all when they met. Penn grows on him very slowly over time.
Many characters in Crash go through serious upheaval over the course of the novel, while other characters don't change at all. The big transformations happen to Scooter and Crash. Scooter loses a lot of his abilities after his stroke. Crash, on the other hand, gains something: a new understanding of what's really important.
You know how sometimes people change their minds about what's important in life after a near-death experience? That's sort of what happens to Crash, except the near-death experience was Scooter's, not his own.
In the world of Crash, change is a positive thing.
In the world of Crash, change is a negative thing.