Cut by Patricia McCormick
Plot Summary: 15 year old Callie finds herself in a treatment facility for girls with various self-destructive addictions. It turns out that Callie is a cutter. McCormick chronicles her experiences with other girls in group therapy and one on one sessions. Slowly, Callie comes to terms with the issues that have driven her to hurt herself physically. Through all of this, she discovers that her cuts are outer manifestations of guilt and conflicting emotions surrounding her family. Her brother has asthma and her mother is in frail health and neurotic, both of which she blames herself for. Callie has chosen to take on quite a few responsibilities, much more than your average fifteen year old. Through the course of the book, Callie works toward coming to terms with these issues and with her behavior and eventually wanting to get better. She must overcome one last hurdle before becoming fully healed.
Critical Analysis: The book is obviously well-researched and a lot of the different personalities come through the narrative, not just the girl’s afflictions. I found it to be a much more sympathetic view of treatment facilities than is often seen in popular media. Narrative-wise, the first person diary feel of Cut makes it feel like it is a teenage girl talking. Overall, I thought it was well-written.
One criticism that I have is that its not a terribly nuanced portrayal of what is essentially addiction. With few diversions, the narrative takes a very linear sick-to-well path. All of a sudden at the end of the book, Callie decides that she is fine and is going to get better. It just seemed that everything seems resolved and okay in a very short amount of time. It doesn’t impress upon the reader that Callie wants to take an active role in her own recovery, just that she wants to get better.
Overall, Cut featured a realistic tone without being depressing. Unfortunately it is a fairly superficial view of affliction; it doesn’t get to many of the features or personalitites of teenage girls who typically inflict themselves harm. On one hand, Cut doesn’t get preachy and bogged down in details but on the other hand it starts in the treatment facility so you don’t get a whole lot of background, especially for the secondary characters.
Reader’s Annotation: Callie finds herself in a treatment facility for girls who have problems with self-mutilation or “cutting.” It will be a long hard road out.
Author Information: McCormick is a journalism major with many award-winning novels that typically feature teens dealing with tough issues. Cut was named a Best Book for Teens by ALA.
Genre: realistic fiction, drama
Reading Level/Interest Age: 14-17
Booktalking Ideas: Ask about the difficulty of addiction. Did Cut portray it properly?
Curriculum Ties: addiction
Challenge Issues: sensitive topic, but well portrayed. None.
Challenge Defense Ideas: No challenge issues come to mind when reading this book. The best defense is having a strong knowledge of the book, so becoming familiar with it by reading reviews, finding other opinions, and reading it one's self is a good start. One could also refer to the library's collection development policy here.
Why I included this title: I included this title because it gives the teen reader credit for being able to confront these types of issues and knowing that these things happen and that they do sometimes require outside intervention. Well researched and relatable, compelling to read. It was also a very short book, so it’s an enjoyable and quick read.