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Crosses

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Overview

We cut ourselves. Not by accident, we do it purposely—and regularly—because physical pain is comforting, and because now it has become a habit.

Nancy doesn't have a best friend, until she meets Katie in the bathroom at school. She and Katie have something in common: they both cut themselves. At first, it's just fun—like the drugs and alcohol and shoplifting—and Nancy and Katie don't talk about why they do it. But soon Nancy realizes that she and Katie need cutting to get through...

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Overview

We cut ourselves. Not by accident, we do it purposely—and regularly—because physical pain is comforting, and because now it has become a habit.

Nancy doesn't have a best friend, until she meets Katie in the bathroom at school. She and Katie have something in common: they both cut themselves. At first, it's just fun—like the drugs and alcohol and shoplifting—and Nancy and Katie don't talk about why they do it. But soon Nancy realizes that she and Katie need cutting to get through the day. Nancy can cover the scars on her arms and legs. It's the others, the ones inside, that are becoming hard to hide.

Unhappy at home, Nancy and her friend Katie adopt punk lifestyles and find relief in cutting themselves, until Nancy is forced to confront her problems.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
First-time novelist Stoehr draws a hard-hitting, graphically realistic portrait of troubled adolescents who indulge in alcohol, drugs, sex, shoplifting and ``cutting'' themselves, deliberately, an activity that somehow assuages inner turmoil. Fifteen-year-old Nancy's first-person narrative, more a journal than a story, spans the years 1985 to 1988. This intrinsically intelligent teenager embodies the punk look and attitude. Meeting Katie, a like-minded schoolmate who becomes her closest friend, draws Nancy even deeper into a risk-taking ideology that occasionally results in ineffectual punishment at school and at home--where the environment is hardly idyllic. Expletives abound in this provocative work, and one hopes that the contents won't inspire like behavior among foolishly curious readers. Yet this morbidly compelling chronicle of promising lives gone astray commands attention throughout. Ages 14-up. Nov.
School Library Journal
Gr 9-12-- Self-abuser Nancy deals with alcoholic, abusive parents by hurting herself and drinking. At school she meets Katie and they become best friends; both are freshmen, both are punkers, and both are scarred from cutting. Cutting--with fingernails, glass, or any sharp instrument--is their escape from the sordid reality and lack of control of their lives. When you hurt physically, you can't feel emotional pain. They use the system--teachers, counselors, classmates. Drinking at school, they get caught. But well-intentioned adults believe their lies, and the girls begin again. Nancy has Mike, her straight boyfriend; he cautions her about her actions, but she doesn't listen. She knows sex with Mike keeps him happy, and he will never tell her parents. Events, however, do finally conspire against Nancy, and she attempts suicide. Strong street language, sex, and violence mark this portrayal of a troubled young teen. Written as a first-person narrative, the compelling story draws readers into Nancy's mind: they will feel the intensity of her pain, both physical and emotional. Characterizations of parents, caring but misguided school personnel, punk rockers, and other teens are strong, realistic, and consistent. Stereotypes have been avoided, and the language, conversations, and relationships are contemporary and genuine. Consequences for actions are logical; didacticism is avoided, yet the unstated message of the horrors of drugs and alcohol is there. Reminiscent of Go Ask Alice S. & S., 1971, the powerful portrayal of Nancy and Katie will be read again and again by today's teens. --Gail Richmond, Point Loma High School, San Diego
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440215615
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/1993
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 160

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

"We cut ourselves. Not by accident, we do it purposely -- and regularly -- because physical pain is comforting, and because now it has become a habit. Like the drugs. These are, in fact, the two main things Katie and I have in common. They are how we met." This was my diary entry on November fourth, 1985.

When I met Katie I was fifteen. It was September of 1985, and I'd just started ninth grade. Before school I fought with my mother about the bologna I wasn't taking with me for lunch. I almost gave in and agreed to make a sandwich, knowing I would only throw it in the wire basket outside the school. But when I opened the plastic meat-keeper the smell made me want to puke. It didn't help that I'd sucked nearly a pint of vodka through a straw and straight up to my brain the night before. I clutched my stomach and scrunched my nose.

"It's bad," I said, "just smell it."

My mother reopened the plastic container. "Only because you've let it sit there for two weeks." She pushed my nose down near the pink, fat-covered, gross lunch-meat and I held my breath. When I couldn't keep from breathing anymore, I bolted from under Mom's grasp and escaped out the back door. At the end of the street, I vomited and felt better.

I was already sweating by the time I reached the end of the next block. It was only the second week of school, and the weather was sultry. At least I'd managed to slip out of the house in my battered black sandals, instead of the socks and loafers my mother had bought and expected me to wear to school, no matter what the weather. It would be at least two weeks before it was cool enough to wear socks, and even then I wasn't thrilled about wearing loafers. Thank God they were black and would match my newly dyed hair.

I stopped in town to buy a diet Coke at the donut shop. Then, at seven forty-five, I shuffled into the brick school building and right away went to the bathroom to change from my parent-imposed conservative dress into a ripped fatigue T-shirt, jeans -- on inside-out -- and a long black vest. I knew the jeans would stick to my skin from the heat, but we weren't allowed to wear shorts at Babylon High.

I stuck safety pins everywhere and dangled paper clips from my ears. Finally, I spiked my hair, making it shiny with gel. Another girl came into the bathroom as I inspected myself in the mirror and I almost gagged. She also had gel in her hair, but the result for her was a big, poofy, feathered up-and-back lion's mane. My blue-black hair was short with bald spots where I'd cut too much. Spikes stuck straight up like pieces of broken glass. My shirt was green and black and dirty, the other girl's was pink with "Ocean Pacific" printed across the front. Her high heels made it difficult for her to stand securely, whereas my unevenness was caused by my hangover. I went into one of the toilet stalls so I could giggle without her seeing me.

When I first started dressing punk my mother freaked. I was barely fourteen, and I went shopping one afternoon with money I made baby-sitting. It was October and there was a Homecoming dance at school that night. I wanted to look good. Hand-me-down jeans with stovepipe bottoms and pink flowers embroidered on the back pocket wouldn't cut it. I couldn't afford real leather, but I saw a fake leather miniskirt. I bought it, along with a bright red T-shirt. "Screaming Hussy Red," Katie would call it a year later.

I got the effect I wanted. Everyone was shocked, even though my outfit was pretty bland in my eyes -- the skirt, after all, came to mid-knee. It made me feel special, and I thought I looked pretty.

My mother wasn't home when I left for the dance, but she waited up for me later. She was watching TV in the living room, so when I came through the kitchen door, my father saw me first.

"Do you know how many naugas they must have killed to get the hide for that skirt?" he said, putting a jar of mayonnaise back into the refrigerator. I laughed and went into the living room to kiss my mother good night. She raised her eyes from the TV Guide and slowly took off her reading glasses. I'd suspected she'd be angry. Still, I wasn't prepared for the outburst I got.

"Do you know what you look like?" she said quietly, then yelled, "Look in the mirror! Go look in the mirror, then come back and tell me what you saw!" I didn't move. The TV's blue shimmer made her look older than her thirty-three years, and I thought, freakin' old bag -- fuck you. I'm old enough to wear what I want, and there's nothing wrong with what I'm wearing.

"You look like a slut!" she screamed. I saw my father sneak past to the liquor cabinet, and hoped he would butt in and tell her to shut the hell up, but of course, he didn't.

"There's nothing wrong with what I'm wearing!" I said, "Amy Brown wore a denim miniskirt. Why don't you say something about her?" It didn't matter that Amy had actually worn jeans, I needed someone on my side and my sometimes-friend Amy was my mother's idea of a model child.

"There's a world of difference between leather and denim. And where'd you get the money?"

"From baby-sitting."

"Do I have to start hiding my wallet now, too?"

"The skirt isn't even that short, I don't know what you're complaining about."

"Don't ever let me catch you wearing that again."

I stood glaring at her, tears welling in my eyes. As I stomped up the stairs, I angrily refused to acknowledge my father when I brushed past him. Freakin' traitor. Wimp. I guess that's what happens when you spend forty hours a week sitting in a little cubicle looking at ledgers and a computer screen. You lose your backbone.

Slowly, my wardrobe hardened. I cut my hair short and started spiking it, started attaching safety pins and paper clips to everything, started wearing dark eye liner and heavy black mascara to make my bright blue eyes stand out like fishbowls. When I was drinking or high, the glassiness added to that illusion. My mother and I fought constantly about the way I dressed, so, rather than drive her to poking my eyes out with one of my own safety pins, I started carrying my clothes to school with me, and changing in the bathroom when I got there.

Now, a year later, I was still toting my wardrobe to a blue-green stall so I wouldn't look like a geek. Sometimes I thought that was my best subject: Warding off Geekness 101. I had to work harder than anyone else because instead of being blessed with beauty or wealth, I'd managed to be born with intelligence. Not enough to make me a blithering genius, but enough to make me sometimes act stupid and blurt out the right answer to a supposedly tough question. I tried to avoid doing that, but it could get real dull listening to some mop-headed teacher with sagging stockings whine, "Doesn't anybody know how Captain Ahab got his peg leg?"

The sound of thirty people riffling through their notes was so unnerving, I'd finally raise my hand and mumble the answer, pulling on a safety pin and trying to look like I hadn't really done the reading, but somehow this one answer had just come to me. If it weren't for my clothes and my attitude, I never could've gotten away with it. As it was, I still wasn't sure it was working. Fourteen years of being a geek is hard to fix.

Still, I could try. After changing my clothes in the bathroom, I colored my lips with soft black eyeliner and lit a cigarette in the stall. I kept the door open a crack, so I could see if anyone came in. Unfortunately, when a hallway aide did slip in, my sneakiness didn't help me any. I was the only one in the bathroom, and Miss Clairol swore she smelled smoke, so I was snagged. Protest was useless -- it didn't matter that she hadn't seen a cigarette, I was written up, and would probably get detention.

The day got worse. I went to math class first period, and got back the first test of the year. Scrawled in red ink across the top of the ditto was, "85% -- Good!" Good? I pressed my fingers hard against my desk. Good? This was the lowest grade I'd ever gotten in math. I mean, my father was an accountant for Christ's sake. It was in my blood to know numbers and shit. I crumpled the test, and without asking permission I took the bathroom pass and left the classroom, my army bag slung over my shoulder and my fingers clenched hard on its strap as I tried not to cry.

I sat in the corner, behind the last toilet stall and near the window. It was open, and the smoke from my cigarette floated outside so there was less chance of me getting caught if a teacher came in. I downed a shampoo sample bottle filled with my parents' vodka and started to feel better. Wiping ashes from my jeans, I reached into my bag and after pawing through scraps of paper, empty cigarette boxes, and old butts from when my carry-along ashtray broke, I finally found a small, sharp piece of glass. I always kept sharp things in my bag for emergencies. Sometimes I carved designs --mostly crosses -- but the way the day was going, I really felt like I might cry. I needed relief fast and this was how I was brought up. When I was little, my mother used to slap me across my face when I cried, "to give me a good reason," but once I got older, I found that wasn't enough. I began to use glass when I needed a reason to break down.

Puffing hard on my cigarette, I squeezed my eyes shut and pulled the glass up my arm again and again. Suddenly I felt like I wasn't alone anymore, and opened my eyes. In front of me stood a girl with funky clothes, a ton of jingling bracelets, and incredible long blond hair with little spikes on top -- Katie. I blushed almost as red as the blood which was beginning to surface on my arm. For a few seconds, we only stared at each other. I'd seen her around, but never spoke to her much. She hung out with a different crowd, the so-called "dirt-bags." I'd always wanted to be a part of her group, but like I said, despite my clothes I was stuck with a "good girl" image.

Finally, I said, "Hi."

"Hey, do you have an extra cigarette?"she asked.

I gave her one, and my lighter, too, and she sat down next to me on the tiled floor already littered with butts and ashes. I was still nervous because of the blossoming cuts on my arm. I think she read my mind because she smiled and showed me her shoulder, which had a scabby cross about an inch long carved into it.

Copyright © 1991 by Shelley Stoehr. Used by permission of Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 36 )
Rating Distribution

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(29)

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(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2010

    Do not recommend for ages younger than 16

    I read this book when I was too young, I believe I was 12,(it was recommended on my school's summer reading list) and it gave me the idea that hurting myself might relieve some of the emotional and mental anguish I was experiencing. At the time, I did not realise it would turn into a an addiction and it took me about 15 years to stop hurting myself. I'm not saying this would be the case for all young readers; I hope I am the exception. However, if you are an adult, I recommend you read this book before giving it to the intended recipient.

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  • Posted April 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting

    Before I read this book, I had heard it was actually good. I bought it and wasn't disappointed. It really takes you in the point of view of the girl telling the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2008

    Couldnt be any better!

    I never really read in my life but when I saw this book in my school library, I just had to read it. I loved every moment of this book and I am going to read it over and over again.The ending got me the most. I cried. It opened my eyes to a whole new point of view on books!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2007

    a first

    I really hate to read...but when a friend recommended this book I read it...and LOVED it!I never thought it was possible to be so touched by a book!I actually cried at the end!I LOVE IT!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2007

    Not a very good read

    This book talked little about self mutilation and more about punk rock, alchole and drugs. If i could give it a lower score I would.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2007

    TOTALLY RECCOMEND

    This book describes how its like to be depressed and wat people do to overcome it. You don't need to do drugs to be a punk rocker though. It talks about difficulties of teenage girls. I really reccomend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2006

    I loved this book!

    I hate books, and when I read this one I feel in love with it. It actually got to me! This is by far my favorite book EVER!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2006

    healed scars

    this is the best book ever written it was very emotional and realistic i related to alot of stuff with nancy i have read it twice and both times i cried. i am in love with this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2006

    WOW

    Aboslutely amazing...i loved this book. Being a suicidal teenager myself it helps to know that you are not the only one that feels pain. Having gone through all that Katie and Nancy go through, the sex drugs alchol even parents, i must say this is a very accurate book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2005

    this book helped me

    this book is great i read it all the time it helped me with my personal life and my problems this book is a wounderfull and i think every girl should read it. it decribes what life as a troubled teen is like and what a true friend is

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2005

    Incredible

    This is by far my favorite book that I have ever read. I was just looking on the library computer one day and this book title came across and I read about it and it sounded like a good book. BOY WAS I RIGHT! This is an amazing book and I just can put it down. I have read it about 11 times and I reccomend it to all of my friends. Its hard being a teenager these days and I related to both Nancy and Katie. I have been through the same things that they have and I beat it. I beat the cutting, the alcohol, the drugs. I love this book because it shows what its like to be a teenage punk rocker. Read this book, its a must!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2004

    it changed my life

    i LOVE crosses. it helped me with self-identity and learning what a true friend is. this is the best book. 'misery loves company'..so true

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2004

    awesomee

    this was an amazing book! shelley is my cousin and at first i picked up the book only because she had written it but once i started reading it i was amazed! it is one of the best books i have ever read and i highly reccomend it to anyone who enjoys reading. i give crosses a 5+ rating!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2004

    SUCH AN AMAZING BOOK!

    I'm only a teenager. A teenager that never picked up a book until Crosses was brought to my attention. A book I could relate to. I balled my eyes out like a baby when reading this. The emotion the passion it creeps up on you and really connects you to the characters. This book was't just a past time for me to read but it helped me. I've now stopped cutting and owe a huge part of that to Shelley Stoehr. If you haven't read this book yet, I highly suggest it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2003

    A Fabulous Book

    This is one of my favorite books. I first read it when I was 15 in 1995. I read it a least once a year. I love this book and highly recommend it to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2003

    this is fantastic book

    this is the best book i have ever read, i can really relate to nancy, i have this picture perfect family on the outside but inside everything is messed up, this book has really helped with my problems alot,letting people see what its really like ive read it at least 5 times and also go ask alice

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2003

    this book made me cry

    Hard to believe..but this book actually made me cry. I'm not sure if it was because I was going through a tough time in high school at the time, but i remember crying more than once while reading this book. I remember reading how passionate the feelings of the main character were towards herself, her parents, her friends, just a lot of things that I think a lot of reader's could relate to. It was so good that I read it in 3 days. It brings you into the life of the generation X and also shows how teenagers feel about their actions- it's as real as it comes with this novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2003

    AWESOME

    Great content and excellent details. Shelley really pinpointed the way teenagers get when there is noone around, the whole outcast picture was perfect.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2002

    crosses the best book ever and always

    i give this book 5 starsand i think that this is the best book ever , the story is sorta like me and my friend it has its similarities to our life, but its well written i couldnt put it down

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2002

    i couldnt even put the book down

    i've never had a book have such a strong impact on my life before..this novel no doubt has had strong results with my reading habits...i read the book in less than 3 days...i admit that i really dont like to read, but this book i definitely plan on reading it again and again.

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