Crash by Jerry Spinelli (1995)

Crash3A story told from the point of view of a total jerk.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages: 176 (for ISBN 9780440238577)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, humor, reluctant readers

Tone/Style: simple, judgmental (at the beginning)

Pace: fast

Topics: bullying, jocks

Themes: identity, change, family

Summary: Crash Coogan, a seventh-grade football star, has been an aggressive person from the time he was very young; sometimes, he is too aggressive. He enjoys his rough, macho behavior until he meets an unusual neighbor who forces him to think about his life and his way of treating others.

A rare glimpse into the life of a bully in an unforgettable story about stereotypes and surprises. (Source)

Who will like this book?: This is a great choice for reluctant reader: quick, funny, and relatable. It also has great boy appeal, although girls are likely to enjoy it too.

Who won’t like this book?: Some may balk at the idea of a protagonist who is not really a hero. (Though of course, there is redemption to be found for Crash in the end.) 

Other comments: I appreciate how this book makes it easy to empathize with Crash even while you condemn his behavior. Penn is a funny, unpredictable character who perfectly captures that awkward, free-spirited nerd we’ve all met at some point in our lives.


Readalikes: The novella The Julian Chapter by R.J. Palacio is told from the point of view of the bully in Wonder; it can be found in the collection Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories. James Preller’s Bystander and The Fall tell the stories of people who fail to stand up for others when they are bullied (plus do a bit of bullying themselves). You might also recommend Diary of a Wimpy Kid, if they haven’t read it yet. That kid is such an a-hole.

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