Laurinda’s Rating: 3.5/5
The 2006 Newbery Medal Winner, Criss Cross, tells the stories of a loosely connected group of adolescents mostly living in the same neighbourhood. As the title suggests, their paths cross in the course of daily life. There isn’t really a central story; rather, the book is structured around the theme of growing up and learning to understand those around you. The author, Lynne Rae Perkins, describes her concept here.
The narration switches between characters, with Debbie and Hector serving as the primary narrators. Debbie wishes for something to alleviate summer boredom and frets over boys. Hector takes up guitar playing after attending an excellent performance and also worries about relationships, brainstorming exciting places to take the girl with whom he is infatuated. One of my favorite sections features Debbie and Peter. By chance, Debbie agreed to help Mrs. Bruning, an elderly neighbour lady, with small chores. Peter, Mrs. Bruning’s grandson, comes to stay for a week. The two end up rushing his grandmother to the hospital for diabetes-related complications, then collaborate on cleaning up the house so that Peter’s parents will allow his grandmother to remain at home. They share their dreams and take a mini adventure on the local bus. This story epitomizes the entire book: little of critical importance happens, but daily life is depicted in an interesting and sympathetic manner.
This wasn’t one of my favorite reads (it took me over 2 weeks to finish, only some of which was due to other time commitments), but I appreciate the author’s creativity. The style is interesting and variable. In one chapter, for example, the author deploys text in two columns, with a different narrator in each, demonstrating how each views interaction with the other. Other chapters include snippets of music as Hector learns the guitar and starts composing bits of songs. The included illustrations are well executed and perfectly capture the surrounding text. Additionally, the characters are well realized, each with an interesting story and unique style of speaking.
Criss-Cross would be a great book for introspective young adults. The main characters spend a lot of time inside their own heads, theorizing about life around them and about growing up. It’s very relatable even if you haven’t dealt with the specific worries/problems with which the characters deal. So, recommended for those who enjoy character driven novels and contraindicated for those who like story or action driven narratives.