Criss Cross

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Criss Cross Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Lyrical tale of small-town teens in a '60s summer.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Focuses intently on the small, mundane things in life, but really shows the beauty in them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters aren't defined and are difficult to keep track of, but they seem to all be well behaved and thoughtful.


One instance of s--t.


A soft drink brand is mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character uses chewing tobacco, which is depicted as being disgusting.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Criss Cross is a Newbery-wining novel by Lynne Rae Perkins about small-town teens whose paths cross one summer in the 1960s. There's one instance of swearing, and a teen character uses chewing tobacco, which his friends find revolting.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of an infant, 2, 6, and 10-year-old Written byAG Fan Parent May 6, 2013

Beautifully written. So why isn't it likable?

This book is definitely what Common Sense describes it as-depth with no plot. This book is beautifully written, with a lot of truth, morals, and values tucked... Continue reading
Adult Written byElvenfoot April 24, 2012

Didn't like, but prove me wrong

I feel dumb, because I am a teacher and should be on board with medal winners--but I didn't like this book at all. It was slow, dull, and lacking in much... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byKezCat May 11, 2020

Little Plotline, Lots of Wisdom

Hi! This book does not follow a plot in the traditional sense. Those who are not used to this style of writing may be a bit unnerved by this when they start to... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byA reader January 2, 2017


Drags on and explains way to much on everything and the story line doesn't make any sense for anyone to read. Sorry but I dislike this book.

What's the story?

This book is about one '60s-era summer in the lives of an assortment of very nice small-town teens. Just like a real small-town summer for teens, not very much happens. Life is pleasingly slow and languid. They listen to the radio, wonder about the opposite sex and about themselves, hang out, talk, grow a little, change a bit, come to a few understandings they didn't have before.

One boy is inspired by a college coffeehouse to take some guitar lessons in the basement of the church. A girl befriends and helps out an elderly woman. Paths cross, connections are made, or missed. It's real life, lyrically rendered.

Is it any good?

CRISS CROSS is an intriguing book, absolutely deserving of major awards. It has no plot, only slightly defined characters who are hard to tell apart or keep track of, no hero or protagonist or clear point of view, no action or suspense or mystery, just a touch of gentle humor. And yet ... it is a deeply lovely book, profoundly observant and wise about the little things in life that most books, children's or adult, ignore, or perhaps don't even notice. So what keeps the pages turning? Is it the gorgeous writing, the penetrating insights, the little bits of philosophy and keen observation?

It's something of a little miracle, really -- the author spends three whole pages describing a boy looking at himself in the mirror, and it's almost impossible to put down. Either this kind of thing grabs you, or it doesn't -- and for most kids age 10 and up, it won't. A few, those with a thoughtful or poetic or mystical bent, will find it enthralling.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the many little observations and insights in the book.

  • How do people connect, or miss connecting?

  • What are the moments that push our lives in different directions?

  • Is there only one person out there for each of us?

Book details

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