Criss Cross

Criss Cross
by Lynne Rae Perkins
MG fiction. 337 pp.
Greenwillow. 2005.

One of my little oddities is my inability to not finish a book. I know that many people don't understand this little obsession, Tolkien Boy not being the first. A number of years ago, I took a children's lit class wherein we had to do a buttload of reading. I started reading Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes because I thought it would be good to read all the Newbery books. But I utterly despised the book. My professor, baffled, asked me why I would finish reading such a horrendous book considering how many wonderful books there were out there. I told him that I just have to finish a book if I begin reading it.

Anyway, the moral of this little story should indicate how I feel about Criss Cross. Criss Cross won this year's Newbery award, and this year's Newbery committee won this year's WTF award. You could say it's a fair trade, though generations of kids will be cursed with this book on their recommended reading lists. I feel for them.

I should say that I had been biased going into this book--Pat Castelli discussed this book as part of her presentation at UVSC. Her handout summarizes the book as follows:

The "story" emerges in the 2006 Newbery Award in slice-of-life chapters from various points of view, thus it may be difficult to engage an average young reader. While 14-year-old Debbie is the main character, four of her friends are almost as important, three boys and a girl, Patty. The cover art shows a girl with her back turned and her fingers crossed behind her back with the statement, "She wished something would happen." Many young readers [and I might add older readers] may share her wish regarding the book. That said, there are charming scenes in this book and some that are absurd.

On one of the listservs I'm on, one reader came to the defense of the book by noting that
the Newbery is awarded to the book the committee deems the "most distinguished contribution to children's literature" in any given year. It is not given to "the book kids will love the most" or to "the most marketable book" or to "the most readable book" or even to "the *best* book."

Taking all of this into consideration, I still think the committee was smoking a whole lot o' pot when it chose this book. I'm all for literary and experimental writing, but you still have to give me a friggin' storyline to follow. Sheesh. And maybe I can forego an actual storyline if you give me a character to actually care about through the little slices of life. This book didn't do that; by the end of the book, I couldn't even really tell you who any of the characters were. Another great gripe I have of this book is the author's complete inability to maintain point of view. POV shifts were haphazard and odd.

Really, in the end, this book very much should not have won the Newbery. Avoid it like the plague. Read Shannon Hale's Princess Academy instead.


Master Fob said...

Funny you should mention Shannon, because at the beginning of your post I was thinking about how last night Pat Castelli was telling a patron about how Shannon will often make her audience at a speaking engagement pledge to never ever finish a book they don't like. *shaking my head at you* I'm not sure you're worthy to read a Shannon Hale book.

FoxyJ said...

I also have a hard time not finishing a book, even if I hate it. I'm not sure I've ever just stopped reading a book without finishing it. That's probably why I'm one of the few people that's read Forever by Judy Blume, even though it's a terrible book.

Edgy said...

Well, Foxy, just don't tell Fobby that or he will sit in high judgment of you. Perhaps people like you and me merely have hope that at some point the author wil redeem him or herself. :)

Absent-minded Secretary said...

There is a book that I have started twice but never finished. It was called Walden, and when I wrote my paper on it I got an "A".

I made Thoreau a Christ-figure.

I like to believe that someday I will read it... but, I know that I like to tell the story about the unread book more, and I probably won't.

Edgy said...

I'm all in favor of not reading a book so you can preserve a story about not reading that book.

Tolkien Boy said...

I like reading bad books. They fill me with such righteous indignation that I always write really well for about two days afterwards.

Iguana Sam said...

I just recently finished Tess of the D'Urbervilles after years of having only read the first third. It was a fine book. But then, I've put down three books I don't plan on picking up again in the past year, so I guess it all is too short for some relentless drivel.

Absent-minded Secretary said...

I already commented on this one.