Criss Cross

by Lynne Rae Perkins

Debbie, Hector, Lenny, Patty, and Phil live normal fourteen-year-old lives in a normal... read more

Debbie, Hector, Lenny, Patty, and Phil live normal fourteen-year-old lives in a normal community, and face normal adolescent issues, including romance, identity, family, and self-actualization. What makes Criss Cross remarkable is not high drama but rather the remarkable depth Lynne Cross Perkins has created by revealing her characters through small but significant moments that impact their own—and one another’s—lives. The five of them intersect most often sitting in Lenny’s dad’s truck, where they listen to an old radio show called Criss Cross . The title serves as the central metaphor for the rambling intersections of their lives, the meaningful connections and the poignant near misses, which are revealed in many formats throughout the novel, including poetry, anonymous conversations in the dark, and a smattering of unique graphic art drawn and compiled by the author. With lyrical prose and a genuine affection for her characters, Perkins is able to demonstrate the beauty of existential wonderings and wanderings. At times, the characters’ insights into themselves and the nuances of teenage life are laugh-out-loud funny, and readers will recognize certain universal truisms, such as Debbie’s observation about dragging jeans: “She believed that it was the only way to wear pants that made any sense. That wearing dragging jeans did not actually guarantee that good things would happen to you, but not wearing them could almost guarantee that the good things wouldn’t.” Or the first song that Hector writes after beginning guitar lessons: “I’m thinkin 'bout/ talkin’ ’bout / boys boys boys / talkin’ ’bout / girls girls girls.” In that short stanza, Hector has summarized teen life. Perkins’s narrative focuses most closely on Debbie, a wise and tender character she first introduced in All Alone in the Universe (Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 1999). (Ages 11–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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