Every main character gets to be the star of the book, right? But what happens when the protagonist you start getting to know and like turns out the be the bully of the story? Jerry Spinelli's Crash begins with a view of John "Crash" Coogan as a rambunctious little tyke who earns his name by tackling his cousin at Christmas. He's not a mean kid; he's just full of energy, and he loves football!
After a few brief chapters, we see Crash as a 5' 7", 154-pound 7th-grade fullback. He and his best bud Mike love roughhousing, football practice, and taunting each other over who has the coolest clothes. They are two tough guys who take delight in tormenting the weak and defenseless.
But Crash is not a bad person. He has feelings, fears, hopes, and dreams. And when someone very close to him is nearly taken away (I don't want to give away any spoilers!), Crash finds himself changing.
This is a truly great book because it shows us that even people who are good at sports, who run fast and tackle hard, who joke with their friends in boisterous ways, and who pick on people who aren't tough, even they have feelings and struggles. Even they can feel pain and remorse. Even they can be compassionate. Even they can be heroes!
I recommend this book to 5th and 6th grade readers who like sports, who hate sports, who love their grandparents, or who have ever wondered why jocks can be so mean.