I'm glad I read Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins. She captures something about the beginnings of adolescence, something intangible.
I loved her characters. They're regular people in a small town, but they have wit, spark, and a million questions about life.
At first I didn't like it. I kept waiting for something to happen.
Then I decided to stop hoping something would happen (good thing, because nothing really did happen) and just let myself enjoy the people she was writing about. There's this group of kids: Hector learning to play the guitar, Debbie driving a stick-shift, Lenny taking things apart and putting them back together. And all of them sitting around watching fireflies.
Unfortunately, I always read books as a writer. It's a curse, because the only books I can truly enjoy are books by dead people. I think this is true because you know dead people are not your competition. Whenever I read a book by someone who's alive, I'm always comparing. Many times I'm trying to learn, too, but even learning turns books into a lesson and not a means of enjoying oneself.
I learned from reading Criss Cross. One of the things I learned is that it's okay to write something different from what everyone else is writing. This book was the polar opposite of fast-paced, pop fiction. But that's okay. It stands as it's own contribution. And it won the Newbery medal when fast-paced, pop fiction books did not.
I'll probably remember it a lot longer than fast-paced, pop fiction too. Not so much the plot, because there wasn't one, but the feelings I had while reading it, how it played out a rhythm in my brain, reminding me what it's like to be a twelve or thirteen year old again.
It wasn't one of those page-turners. I didn't stay up all night reading it. It didn't have a universal lesson where I walked away feeling enlightened or liberated. It was a little sad, a little funny, a little lonely. And it felt real, which is a great achievement unto itself.