Criss Cross
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2007
As others before me have stated, I simply cannot believe that the average number of stars for this book is 3. I'm a 24 year old graduate student and am currently on a mission to read all of the Newbury winners. To give you an idea of my tastes, my favorite young adult novels are Maniac Magee, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, etc.

I think that what I enjoyed most about this book was Perkins' descriptions, as well as her humor and her interesting ways of making this text different from others. She includes hand drawn pictures to enhance the story, and she does some really innovative things with how the text is written. I also loved it because I felt that I really connected with the character of Debbie in a way that is unusual for me.

I can imagine how some might find this book slow moving, seeing as there's no real "climactic moment" or a definitive resolution. But it is a simply wonderful text for those readers who revel in involved texts that use language in new ways.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2006
It may seem challenging to write an interesting realistic fiction book, about regular teenage life, but Lynn Rae Perkins does this task quite deftly. I don't tend to like realistic fiction, since it talks about regular life, and sometimes lacks action and mystery. Perkins's book, Criss Cross however, is an exception. I'm a big fan of mystery books, and although this book lacks action, it is a unique realistic fiction book, and a fun read. Since the story is about a group of kids, in a realistic society, I appreciate this book more, since I can relate to its characters. Criss Cross follows an interesting storyline, that allows you to look at life from different points of view.

As I have told you, this story is unique and creative, but what gives the story these qualities? The answer is, the characters. There are two main characters in this book. These two teenagers, Debbie and Hector, consider themselves ordinary, and regular. Both characters ponder about their fate, and if they will live the teenage years they had dreamed of living. Hector is a kind-hearted, carefree guy. Debbie, is a timid, yet open-minded girl. Though their personalities are quite contrasting, they both wish that something important would occur to them, or that something about them or their fate would change very soon. They both go through two different adventures over the summer, wishing for this same thing. Unfortunately, as they wait for this "change of fate," it seems like it will never occur. As both characters mature over the summer, experience happiness, heartbreak, truth, and lots of fun. Together they envelope you in their emotions, and their point of view.

If the authentic storyline, has not persuaded you to read Criss Cross perhaps the colorful style of the book's language will. The author uses words in creative, and humorous combinations. To describe events, and thoughts she uses inspiring word choice. Split into thirty-eight vignettes, the author thoroughly describes the two teenagers summer's. Unfortunately since the whole story, is split into thirty-eight miniature sections, it is slightly confusing, and does not flow well.

Nevertheless, Lynne Rae Perkins, does her job, and ends the book at a high point, making you wish she wrote more. Though, it would probably please me more, if she took the story a bit farther, she writes it very well. If you are a curious and creative person, I would definitely recommend this book to you. There's no surprise Criss Cross won the 2006 John Newberry Medal, and reading this book would certainly add to your repertoire of modern literature.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2007
I found Criss Cross to have a very believable plot, because most of the book is just about everyday life. I could connect to the characters because their lives remind me of mine. They did the type of things I like to do during the summer, hanging out with friends and relaxing. I would definitely read another book by this author, because I enjoyed this book. I would recommend this book to others, because it is a great book that anyone could connect to.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2006
I found this book to be lyrical and gentle. Relaxing in a good way, not boring. The characters have the ring of truth to them, traveling the awkward road from childhood to maturity, without the need for flashy drug/sex escapades. The description of the small events that shape who we are is so true and universal.

I would not recommend this book to anyone who needs dragons, wizards, car chases, or snotty/slutty girls to keep themselves amused and awake.

I don't usually pay much attention to what book won what award, but I enjoyed this one so much that perhaps now I will.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2009
There are just too many one-star reviews of Criss Cross for me to sit on my hands. Some people don't seem to 'get' this book.

Okay, it's a Newbery winner so maybe you think it should read in the adventurous vein of Terabithia or Island of the Blue Dolphins. What you expect to get out of such a book might determine how you see Criss Cross, how you judge it.

I tend to think that too many people have been Harry-Potterized when it comes to young adult fiction. If you have been Potterized, you will probably demand a white-knuckle, ever-thickening plot in which a lone nerdy underdog eventually rallies his wits and (against all odds) overcomes the collective forces of Super-Evil in an Armageddon-esque climax with all the required fireworks.

So I would call Criss Cross the anti-Harry-Potter in that it isn't a story that goes from A to B in a single straight line and isn't full of stereotypical characters like the cruel step-parents, the goofy-funny side-kick, the old and wise mentor, and the evil-for-evil's-sake antagonist who is the ten thousandth literary incarnation of tired old biblical Lucifer (who always seems to speak superiorly in some version of Shakespeare-ese).

So, yes, I can see why this most unPotter-like book might not push your buttons but instead press you to find fault over its 'lack' of story, excitement, action, interesting characters, and so on, as you have been conditioned to perceive these things.

If you want formula, THAT formula, you won't get it here. What you will get instead are tiny, intricate, intimate moments that are windows into teenaged souls.

There is Russell K., for example, outwardly a dull, dorkish type. Eating ice cream at the Tastee-Freez (Dairy Queen) he watches two pretty girls get up to leave. He observes them as they "toss their napkins, so lightly and easily, into the basket. They didn't even stop walking to do it. He thought that looked so graceful. He admired it the way you admire a waterfall or a sunset, or how someone plays a piece of music." A simple, short paragraph from Russell's viewpoint says of him what an ordinary writer might need several pages to tell. Who knew this about Russell? Suddenly, we feel what he feels so keenly, and by means of the most unimportant of events -- the discarding of trash at a fast-food haunt. Here is that very, very good kind of writing, where so much less is so much more.

And there is the disconnect by way of a couple of generations and radically different cultures between Debbie and Mrs. Bruning, an invalid lady whom Debbie's mom arranged for Debbie to visit and help. Debbie, typically immature and self-involved, takes an incremental step toward adulthood after her encounter with the old woman.

It happens when Mrs. Bruning asks Debbie to cut off her hair, perhaps fifty years in the growing. Debbie's panic rises as the hair falls away to reveal a pale and patchy baldness. "'You're worried,' observed Mrs. Bruning. 'Let me see. Go and get my mirror, from on my dresser.' Debbie went and returned with the mirror. Mrs. Bruning took it and looked in, moving it up and down and from side to side. Her face was unreadable. 'It's the new me,' she said finally. Then she quoted the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., who she admired. 'Free at last, free at last,' she said in her German accent instead of his southern one. 'Great God A'mighty, I'm free at last.'"

Now this gave me goose bumps. Again, the author crystallizes a small, understated moment, making it glitter and shine. There are many more such sweet, rich mini-events tucked away in the book's pages ready to be appreciated by thoughtful readers. (Like the Nancy Drew discussion and the crisis in the dressing room over bellbottom hems.)

I should mention also that the book has a bounty of humor but it is so straight-faced and subtle that a lot of it will fly under many people's radars and they will therefore pronounce this book unfunny.

They don't get the book, in other words. So they give a one-star review like the ones below.

But you will probably get Criss Cross if:

You enjoy art movies and relationship movies, mostly preferring them to blockbuster action shows.
You like to diverge from the path and amble around for a while examining things, even the small insignificant details of things, before moving on.
You are attracted to quirkiness instead of that which is typical and normal.
You think a literary journey into a character's mind might be at least as fulfilling and enjoyable as a vicarious swashbuckling ocean voyage or a jaunt in an enchanted forest on a unicorn.
You are the kind of person who has written at least one haiku.

I really, really liked this book, first for daring to be different, and then for succeeding with style.

I recommend Criss Cross to people who are prone to wander off the beaten track, who delight in very cleverly arranged words and well-turned phrases purely for their own sake, and who appreciate an introspective view -- a peek in at others' souls.

(By the way, I like the Harry Potter series well enough but I just don't consider it the all-time, most highly refined, most sublimely literate example of printed prose, that's all. But they are good stories, though, and quite adroitly told.)
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
CRISS CROSS is the sequel to the wonderful ALL ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE, and it is equally charming. Debbie is once again the main character, but her neighborhood friends figure into the story as well, especially Hector, who is dealing with the same questions about growing up that Debbie is, though neither one knows this. All of the characters "crisscross" in various ways, and the results are wonderfully unexpected. How nice it is to read about real people, and real kids--decent, caring, questioning, funny kids (well, one is kind of a jerk) who are learning about themselves and how they fit into the world around them. Readers like me, who are the same age as the author, will recognize that the book is set circa 1970, but younger readers--and I hope there will be many--will see Debbie and her friends as their contemporaries. I could go on, especially about my favorite part of the book, in which 14 year old Debbie uses her knowledge of plumbing (she's helped her dad), driving stick shift (Lenny across the street gave her a lesson in his dad's truck), high school German, and medical awareness gleaned from her favorite TV show to spring into action when an elderly neighbor needs her help, but perhaps it's best just to say: this gem of a book is a joy to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2006
When I first saw this book, I thought it would be boring . However, when I started reading it I found that it was a interesting novel about teenagers living in the 80's. Although some chapters were a bit boring, the extremely exciting chapters definitely made up for it. The romance in this novel will have you wondering what happens next. This story is amazing, if your looking for a good book, read this one!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2008
This is a book about how small things, ordinary things, can be beautiful and life-changing. Not every story needs a train robbery, a dead parent or a divorce to be effective. Challenging kids to study the world for subtlety and ambiguity, and rewarding them with charming bursts of truth, is a good thing. It's a remarkable book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2014
I picked this book up from my school's library. From what I read on the back, it was enough to have me check it out. I read this book in a longer amount of time than usual, but it wasn't because of its length. It was because I had to actually devour the text and understand it, and I just didn't want to reach the end of the book. The characters that Perkins writes about... You can't help but feel sympathy for them. You feel like one of the characters in this book when you read it. I felt like giving them good luck at times, a hug when they needed it, felt like hitting them etc. You just empathize towards them, and you want to give them your condolences. They act as how really teenagers may act, but they're more thoughtful, you could say. The characters in this book are trying to find the meaning of life, really. But the author has written this book so it's done in a funny, serious, yet realistic manner. The whole book is like a masterpiece: some will detest and criticize and some will adore it, but it's out there and to some it's truly beautiful.

This book won the Newbery Award, as many people know. There's loads of Newberys out there (they've been giving them out since 1922 I believe). I've read heaps of them, and are some exceptional? Yes. But there's also some poor ones out there. Criss Cross isn't good but it's not bad either. It's far from both. This is a book that's so poetic, beautiful, and crisp yet it has its moments where it's tragic. Perkins really hit a home run this time, and I'm really happy because of that. If I hadn't read this, I would be a whole different person. It's just /that/ kind of book.

Anyways, I really encourage whoever took their time to read this review, to pick up Criss Cross by the lovely Lynne Rae Perkins. This book is one that will not disappoint, and you will surely fall in love with it the way I did.

~Natasha, Sweet and Sassy Reviewz
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2006
I wish Amazon would let us give half stars. (I mean really, why not?) The teens in this book acted pretty much like teens act (when they act at all) but sometimes they speak like nobody I know. There's poetry, witty replies, imaginative comparisons and all that. If somebody I knew said some of this stuff, I would probably just stare at them. Most of the time when somebody throws an insult at me (not often) I can't think of a single witty reply on the spot, yet these characters do and wouldn't you know? It's just the perfect thing to say. I'm guessing the author is just writing the way she thinks teens talk, not the way they really talk, even though she writes very well. (Which is why the 3.5 stars.) And these characters don't really do a whole lot of anything either- they mainly stand around and speak their great thoughts as if that alone is enough. If I didn't have to read this for a class, I probably would have finished it, but still thought it was just "so so" at the end. Other books we read in class I liked: Feed, An Audience for Einstein, Among the Enemy. Read any one of those first. At least things happen in those books that hold your interest and they have something interesting to say.
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