96 pages 3 hours read

Sharon G. Flake

Money Hungry

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2001

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Money Hungry is a 2001 middle-grade novel by American author Sharon G. Flake published by Little, Brown and Company. A Coretta Scott King Honor book, Money Hungry is the first book in Flake’s Raspberry Hill series. It explores 13-year-old Raspberry Hill’s hunger for money and the lengths to which she will go to acquire it. Stemming from a period of homelessness in her childhood, Raspberry will do almost anything to earn enough money to move her and Momma out of the projects, even if doing so means causing damage to her relationships with those she loves. The text explores such themes as greed and the lasting effects of childhood trauma.

Plot Summary

Money Hungry begins on Valentine’s Day. The 13-year-old protagonist, Raspberry Hill, is angry at her mother. After seeing Momma kissing Dr. Mitchell, a wealthy doctor and her friend Zora’s father, Raspberry rips up the card she was going to give Momma. On the ride to school, Raspberry asks Momma about the nature of her relationship with Dr. Mitchell, but Momma brushes her off. At school, Raspberry tries to make money selling expired chocolate, which appears to make a student sick. The principal forbids her from selling candy, and students begin spreading rumors that Raspberry was selling poisoned chocolate. Undeterred, Raspberry finds a new way to make money the next day by selling Valentine’s Day pencils at a discounted rate.

Raspberry’s obsession with money began at an early age and has only intensified over time. Due to periods of homelessness in her childhood, Raspberry believes that making as much money as possible and by any (legal) means necessary is the only way to keep her and Momma from having to live on the streets again. Raspberry also feels that she needs to make money so that Momma doesn’t have to work as many jobs. Momma tells Raspberry that she has begun yet another part-time job to help pay for them to move to a better home in a nicer neighborhood called Pecan Landings. Despite Raspberry’s desire for a better life, she resents that it comes at the cost of spending even less time with Momma.

Raspberry tries to convince her friends to clean houses with her so that they can make money. At first, her friends refuse, but then her friend Ja’nae joins in. Ja’nae needs money after stealing $200 from her grandfather. Raspberry believes that Ja’nae stole the money to buy her boyfriend, Ming, a new leather jacket. Ja’nae asks Raspberry to lend her $200 and promises she will work with her to pay back what she owes. Raspberry and Ja’nae clean a neighbor’s apartment and earn $50 each. When Ja’nae refuses to give Raspberry the $50 per their agreement, Raspberry is angry and takes the money from Ja’nae but ultimately decides to give it back.

Raspberry convinces her friends Ja’nae, Zora, and Mai to take a job cleaning an old boardinghouse in a rough neighborhood. While cleaning the kitchen, Raspberry runs into an old man who instructs her to take a handful of money from a bag he keeps in the refrigerator. Raspberry keeps the money to herself, even after the job doesn’t pay the girls as much as was promised. When Raspberry gets home, she finds her mother furious at her. Ja’nae’s grandfather called while Raspberry was out to wrongly accuse her of stealing his money, which Ja’nae took. Momma also has learned that the housing authority at Pecan Landings has rejected their application because of their low socioeconomic status. She blames their rejection on Raspberry’s greed and behavior, and in a fit of rage Momma throws almost all of the money Raspberry has saved out of the window of their apartment.

Trying to recoup what she lost, Raspberry again demands that Ja’nae pay back what she owes her. Ja’nae reveals that she stole the money from her grandfather not to buy Ming a new jacket, but to pay her estranged mother’s bus ticket from California. Ja’nae throws a handful of money at Raspberry in anger over her lack of trust. Raspberry takes the money, starts walking home, and runs into a local businessman named Odd Job, who offers her a job at his car wash operation. She knows that she’ll break curfew by staying to work but is too tempted by the money to resist.

When Raspberry returns home from her shift with Odd Job, she sees that she and Momma have been robbed of almost all their possessions. Distraught, Momma at once demands that she and Raspberry go back to living on the street, causing Raspberry to wet her pants in anxiety. Raspberry continues working at Odd Job’s car wash and skips school to try and earn enough money to keep her and Momma off the streets. Dr. Mitchell finds her working at the car wash and takes her back to his house, offering to help her and Momma. Odd Job also offers Momma and Raspberry a place to stay at an apartment he owns.

Raspberry and Momma go to the apartment and see that it will require a lot of work to fix up. Momma also learns that one of Dr. Mitchell’s friends, a lawyer, is going to advocate for Momma and Raspberry to move into the house in Pecan Landings after all. Momma and Raspberry not only have a place to call their own for the time being but can begin looking towards the future.

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By Sharon G. Flake