Sarah's Stars

Lynne Rae Perkins. Criss Cross
HarperCollins $8.75  ISBN 978-0-06-009274-0  337 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 14

These aren't words that Hector thought. He wasn't even thinking in words. He was having a satori, a mystical, wordless moment of understanding about Music and Life, including the subcategory of the look on Rowanne's and Liz's faces, that passed through him and altered the shape of his thoughts like water through a sandstone cavern. Like water on a dry sponge.

It's hard to say how long that moment lasted, but when it was gone, Hector knew that he wanted to learn to play the guitar.

Normally, I write a summary of the plot at the start of my review, but for this particular book I can't because Lynne Rae Perkins' Criss Cross doesn't really have one. I spent a very long time trying to think up a way to describe what happens but I found that I could not. The book centers around two main characters: Debbie and Hector, both fourteen I believe. The book never really describes where in the world they are, or even when the book takes place, but I think sometime in the 70s because of the bell-bottoms and the lack of references to things like iPods, cell phones or the Internet. Instead of texting each other all summer, Debbie, Hector and their group of quirky friends gather in a truck to listen to a radio show. There is no apparent goal to achieve, or conflict that needs to be resolved in this book. Mostly it's just about what a bunch of young teenagers do over the course of a summer and their thoughts about everything.

The narrative switches through a whole heap of different viewpoints. It can be confusing at times. I did like the inclusion of illustrations and my favourite chapter was probably the one about haikus. The humour is definitely subtle but there are many things that, once you understand them, are actually quite funny in a charming, innocent way. The way that the author describes the characters really makes them seem well rounded and likeable. The dialogue is very simple, the story veers in millions of different directions at once (all the while ending up nowhere) and the atmosphere is very slow but rich. As for being a good choice for a Newbery award? I think most readers will be bored by it (and to be honest, I didn't think the writing was really all that great). However, for some teenagers and nostalgic adults sitting outside with a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day (or cool twilight), Criss Cross is a honeyed, lazy trip through a small town in the summer that is sure to please those readers.

I give Criss Cross three out of five stars.


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