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Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins ⇉ A Breath of Fresh Air

Friday, February 10, 2017

Criss Cross
Lynne Rae Perkins

Genre: YA Contemporary
Hardback: 337 Pages
Publication: Aug. 30, 2000
by Greenwillow Books

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.


"She wished something would happen."

So begins Lynne Rae Perkins's coming-of-age novel about growing up, exploring new possibilities, gaining new experiences, and feeling the first glimmers of love. It is a story with which we can relate no matter how much we "grow up."
I can easily imagine myself sharing and enjoying this story with younger readers.

Criss Cross is a delightful read that interweaves the stories of the young people (and some older members) of a community. Seldom has a small town feel; the most exciting events are a festival and a spontaneously planned neighborhood pig roast. (If you don't count the young peoples' blossoming awareness of the opposite sex.) The main characters aren't off plotting big adventures or dreaming up big ambitions (they're still at the tender age of fourteen), but they know that they're seeking more. This novel details their everyday adventures as they grow new awareness of themselves and the people around them.

Debbie. Hector. Peggy. Lenny. Phil. Dan. Peter. These are but some of the characters that cross paths with each other and share at least a chapter of their lives with us. Their thoughts and feelings in this new phase of life are very relatable. While we don't spend much time with each character at any particular moment, I appreciate how the novel interweaves their stories to show how their paths criss cross . . . and that, just because two lives intersect, it doesn't mean we necessarily have to make a large impact on each other. In fact, if our moments don't cross at the right time, we may even miss out on something more. And that's okay.

The story telling is whimsical and meanders through the young peoples' lives. It is a breath of fresh air in contemporary literature, at least compared to the more recent dramas that I've read (this is a bit of an older work). The storyline weaves multiple elements including pictures, a two-column stream-of-consciousness narrative that switches between Debbie and Lenny's side, an interview style back and forth between Debbie and Peggy, haiku, song lyrics (including a simple musical score), and the adventures of a wayward necklace.  It passes from person to person; and yet, no matter how big or important an event seems in their lives, the story makes it out to be one of many possibilities in the greater scheme of things. I love how it shows both the significance of these happenings in the teenagers' lives in the moment and yet the fleeting nature of this stage of life.

The ending is appropriate for this story. Through the juxtaposition of the young people and the lightning bugs, it reminds us that we don't need to know where we're going and that our futures are filled with possibilities. What we can do (and many aren't doing enough today) is stop and appreciate the moment. Tomorrow will present its own set of worries.

Read, Reconsider, or Relinquish? The verdict is: Read!

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