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by Shelley Stoehr
Writers Club Press, 1991
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on May 6th 2005

Crosses

Crosses is a novel for young adults about Nancy, a Long Island high school girl who cuts crosses into her skin as a way of relieving anxiety and avoiding her other fears. At the start of the book, in 1987, she is fifteen years old and already casual about sex with her boyfriend, who is a couple of years older than her. Nancy dresses as a punk, and she listens to some punk music. Once she meets another girl, Katie, who is even more self-destructive, she starts cutting classes and smoking pot during the middle of the school day. She goes to parties and gets completely drunk, and she also brings alcohol to school with her, even after she gets caught. In short, she is a rebel and she is headed for trouble.

The psychological clues to her problems are not hard to find. Her parents have a stormy unhappy marriage, drink excessively themselves, and exert very little control over Nancy. Nancy and Katie spur each other on to do more and more outrageous things. But while Katie was never a good student, Nancy had previously done very well, and as she becomes more self-destructive, her grades start to fall. The story tells a rather standard morality tale, with Nancy eventually ending up in hospital and vowing to reform.

Stoehr's writing keeps the pace brisk and she has a fairly good ear for dialog. Since she herself grew up on Long Island in the years that the book is set, she presumably writes with some personal knowledge of the time, although I'm skeptical that teenage punk rockers really referred to themselves as "punkers" then, and there is nothing particularly punk about Nancy anyway. Her behavior is pretty standard suburban teenage self-destruction. Crosses doesn't provide any great insights into self-cutters and drug and alcohol abuse, but it does describe the behavior fairly graphically in a way that many young people can relate to, without glorifying it. The book is a quick read and it may give readers a better understanding of how some young people come to make such bad decisions and the self-destructive things they do to cope with their unhappiness.

 

2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

 

Link: Author website

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.