"Criss Cross" by Lynne Rae Perkins is a different book from the other winners I've read so far. There are a couple of reasons, and as I was reading it I was unsure about whether or not it was good or bad. First of all, Criss Cross is probably more appropriate for 8th and 9th grade and up. I don't think it's necessarily a bad book for younger readers to get their hands on, I just don't think they are old enough to "get it". The main characters are dealing with having true feelings for the opposite sex for the first time, figuring out the awkwardness that the ages of 13-15 year olds are dealing with, and they actually make a lot of progress in those areas. I don't see my 6th grade self being able to comprehend dealing with those issues with the amount of grace that these characters do. I do think it's a positive thing and that readers can learn from it and maybe even be encouraged by it. I don't think it's too heavy, it's all pretty innocent but treated like the big deal it is to develop these crushes for the first time.
Perkin's writing style was completely new to me. There is one entire chapter that is in columns. One side is one character's side of a story, the other column is her neighbor's side of the story. I couldn't read them both at the same time of course, so I read one and then went back to the other. It was a new way of showing that it was all happening at the same time but it threw me a little. It's hard to try new things in books other than the story line, but I think she accomplishes it quite well throughout!
My favorite thing about this book is how accurately it portrays the thoughts of young adults going through the awkward stages of life. I would never go back and re-do junior high! I remember it being fun but horrible at the same time. I think that she shows readers that it's only natural for it to be that way. I think it even made me appreciate that time of my life a little bit more.
I don't know if the author is Buddhist but she does bring a very small amount of Buddhism into an important part of the book. There is also some catholicism as well. There is a minister in it that teaches guitar lessons, and it's funny because he wears a collar and she talks about him like all ministers are like that. I'm married to a minister, though he's a creative arts minister, and it's always interesting to me to see other people's perspectives!