Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Criss Cross – Lynne Rae Perkins


Criss Cross – Lynne Rae Perkins



She wished something would happen. Something good. To her. Looking at the bright, fuzzy picture in the magazine, she thought, Something like that. Checking her wish for loopholes, she found one. Hoping it wasn't too late, she thought the word soon.



Review: When I read the synopsis for this book, I had no idea what it was about. Now that I’ve read it, I understand why the summary is so vague. Nothing happens in the book. It’s a quiet, meandering story about the transition from childhood to the teenage years.

Compared to most middlegrade books, this one has a lot of characters. All of the characters live in the same neighborhood, and their paths keep crisscrossing. The novel mostly shows them going about their daily lives. Sometimes they notice each other, and sometimes they don’t. All the young characters are becoming interested in romance and are starting to take on adult responsibilities.


“Life was rearranging itself; bulging in places, fraying in spots. Sometimes leaving holes big enough to see through, or even step through, to somewhere else.” – Criss Cross



This book doesn't really have a plot. It’s set in a small town in the early 1970s. There are two main characters, Debbie and Hector. Debbie has agreed to help an elderly woman with her housework. Hector has started taking guitar lessons and is desperate to impress a girl in his class. Debbie and Hector are acquaintances who get together every week to listen to a radio show with their mutual friends. The reader knows that Hector and Debbie could be great friends (or even something more), but the characters are so caught up in their own lives that they don’t pay attention to each other.

I’m not sure what to say about this book. I think the story and characters are pretty forgettable. It’s a sweet, slow, realistic story about growing up. The writing is where this book shines. It’s somewhat experimental and not the type of writing you’d normally find in a children’s book. First, it’s omniscient, so you’re inside all the characters’ heads at the same time. Also, there is a lot of unusual formatting. Some chapters are written in verse. One chapter is written in columns. There are mixed-media photograph/sketch things. The format makes the story feel very immediate. Each character is on his/her own trajectory, and there are many small events happening at the same time.

I like how this novel addresses the idea of soulmates. Maybe there isn’t “one person for everyone.” Maybe there are multiple people for everyone. In this book, the characters could have ended up in any combination of relationships and been happy.


“Debbie wondered if it was true that there was only one person in the world for every person, and if she had already met him, and she either had to find a way to be around him again someday or always be alone. Romance-wise. She didn't quite believe this. What seemed more likely was that there were at least five or six people scattered around the globe who you could bump into and, wham, it would be the right thing.” – Criss Cross



This story is about near misses. Sometimes we’re so caught up in our own lives that we don’t notice other people. Your future friend or lover may be standing next to you, but you have to look away from yourself to notice them.


“Their secrets inadvertently sidestepped each other, unaware, like blindfolded elephants crossing the tiny room.” – Criss Cross



I’m not sure how I would have felt about this book if I’d read it as a kid. I think I would’ve liked the formatting, but I was a profoundly stupid child. (You could ask my teachers. They’d agree.) The subtlety of the story would have been lost on me. I probably would have been confused by all the characters. There are a lot of them, and the minor characters aren’t developed very well. I probably would have gotten them mixed up.

Ultimately, this isn’t one of my favorite Newbery winning books. I think I would have gotten bored with it as a kid. It would have been too meandering for me.




TL;DR: Beautifully written with thought-provoking themes, but otherwise forgettable.













18 comments:

  1. Oh dear, this sounds really dull and boring for my tastes!

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    1. Yeah, it’s a very quiet book. No zombies or sharks. :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. ugh confusing blurb, no plot and forgettable characters. Too bad! Such a beautiful cover! I give you LOTSA credit for giving it a try!

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  3. The cover is stunning, so it`s a shame that the story was so forgettable. I do like the themes the author approached, but with so many books on my TBR, I`d rather focus on the ones that are unique and interesting.

    Carmen`s Reading Corner

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    1. Yes, I love the cover. I think it does a great job of capturing the mood of the story.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. It definitely sounds like there would be little to hold most kids' interest. One to skip!

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    1. I don’t think I would have had the patience for it as a kid. I was a stupid child, so I think a lot of this book would have been lost on me.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. This sounds like, while it would be interesting, it would also be boring at times. It sounds like there are some themes in there that I would really enjoy (yay for multiple soul mates!), but I don't think that I'm in the mood for this kind of book right now. Great review! :)

    Anna @Adventures with a Book Nerd

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    1. There’s a lot to like about this book (especially the themes), but I’m not sure how many kids would actually enjoy reading it. It’s probably a good book for patient children.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. What a unique book. I found it interesting to learn about its format. I probably understand books more now as an adult too.
    Thank you for your fun comment on my book post. It made me LOL. I don't blame you if you had hated it. My initial thought was it was weird when I had first listened to it on audio, but I appreciate how this woman before Star Trek was even created, brought the world of physics and science fiction to reading.

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  7. I see reviews like this often about books, which I actually enjoy. I am a character driven reader, and mostly want the books to make me feel something. So, I don't need much plot. I am wondering how the book earned the award on the cover (Newbery?)

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  8. I see some Girl Scout cookies. I have a slight cookie addiction right now so never mind me.

    I don't think that this book would work for me. I really do like for books to have some kind of plot and memorable qualities. Great review!

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    1. Oh, is that what girl scout cookies are? I have always wondered! They look like what I would call coconut macaroons.

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  9. Sounds different and interesting. I might give it a shot just to see what it's like. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Didn't this one win the Newbery? I'm surprised it was so forgettable. They usually do a pretty good job of picking them.

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  11. This sounds so unique. I'm not sure I would really get into it if it doesn't have much of a plot, but it's an interesting idea. It sounds more like literary fiction than a children's book.

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  12. I remember liking this book, though I always confuse it with Krik? Krak! which I (think I) didn't like.

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