Thursday, July 11, 2013

2006 - Criss Cross

I did know that Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins, was surely going to be a good or worthy book because, Hey! It's a Newbery Book! But I just kept putting off reading it. There were others in my stack of Newbery books to read first, books that looked more exciting, more escapist, more interesting. I'm not an adolescent having growing pains and worrying about boys and love and stuff, so I didn't know how well I would enjoy it. But I shouldn't have worried.
Criss Cross covers a span of couple months or so in the lives of a group of friends and acquaintances, most around 14 years old. Although the reader is let into the thinking of most of the characters, the focus is mostly on Debbie and Hector. They both have what most 14 year olds have on their minds. Who am I? Will I find love? Why can't I feel more confident? But this is not a novel wallowing in angst, this is a sweet, subtle observation of the changes and growing up that the teens experience.
Criss Cross is the name of the friends' favorite radio station. When it comes on, they pile into Lenny's parents old truck, turn on the radio and enjoy it together. Criss Cross is also how the friends' lives and various activities connect and cross with each other. The narrative bounces around from kid to kid, telling events from each one's point of view, second person. Unexpected changes of pace, from ultra-short chapters to chapters told mostly in pictures keep the story lively.
One thing I found strange and a little hard to figure out was, why would the author place her story in the late 60's - early 70's? It isn't a "look back," from an adult remembering her youth in those days. There are bell bottoms, polyester, Promotional encyclopedias from the grocery store, and tanning sessions in the back yard. They aren't the point of anything, just the setting. So I wondered why not put your characters into a modern setting? Because it was more familiar to the author? Because it had a better chance of remaining relevant to kids if it was way old rather than 10 years old? Puzzling to me. I had to re-check the copyright date.
Usually, I find multiple viewpoints in the same book to be a flaw for my tastes. But it works for this book. While I don't think it is the best Newbery on the block, I think it is indeed very worthy, and would recommend it.
I picked up Criss Coss at Goodwill for $1.49.

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