Tripp's Reviews > Criss Cross

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
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Apr 15, 2012

bookshelves: omniscient, middle-grade
Read 3 times. Last read April 10, 2012 to April 12, 2012.

Wonderfully written, and a rare example of the omniscient mode in middle-grade/YA fiction, where first-person point of view has been king in recent years, it seems. The warm tone of the narrator follows a group of middle school kids, 14 years old, and some of the adults around them, as they go about their lives in a smallish town in a time before the Internet and cell phones. The narrator has a playful side, dipping briefly into the point of view of an inanimate object, such as a necklace, or animals, but two characters become slightly more prominent than the others: Debbie and Hector. The insights into the characters' lives, particularly those of the kids, proves the writer has not forgotten what it was like to be 14--in fact, she must have been taking excellent notes.

In my taxonomy of writers, there are storytellers and voice masters, the latter blessed with the ability to marry lovely, startling prose to interesting characters in offering amazing commentaries on life, while the former have a sure grasp of plot and are able to shape story arcs that seem inevitable and surprising at the same time.

Readers tend to prefer one to the other--we're all fortunate if we find the rare writer who combines both talents. I love a great story but I prefer those with a strong voice and beautiful prose; these are the books I reread, and Criss Cross falls into this category. Writers such as J. K. Rowling and, to a lesser extent, Suzanne Collins, are consummate storytellers. I enjoyed both of their series, but neither contains a single memorable sentence; once I've read their stories I don't feel the need to revisit their books. I think most people prefer the storytellers, though, to judge by the bestseller lists, and that's fine, so long as the market still has room for those whose words are more than simply a vehicle to move characters and readers from one plot twist to the next.

Reread on May 6, 2012.
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