Once again, I’m going to contradict myself–I am such a liar! Cut is a problem novel. The title pretty much says it all, so I knew that going in, even though I didn’t read the jacket copy.
I claim to not like problem novels, but I loved this book. Even though the problem–cutting oneself–is extreme (not mainstream teen behavior), I never felt the book approached melodrama. It never went over the top, uber-dramatic for the sake of shocking the reader and grabbing attention. In fact, I thought the story was quiet, not at all in-your-face, and I think it’s this quietness that makes the story feel genuine and the MC, Callie, heart-wrenchingly sympathetic.
Fifteen-year-old Callie is at a residential treatment facility because she’s stopped talking and started cutting herself. It’s told in first person, so we see what Callie is thinking. As you might expect, she’s disconnected from other people. I really liked the way Patty shows this: Instead of paying attention to things going on around her, Callie memorizes the colors of cars in the parking lot and counts stripes on wallpaper. Let’s be honest, this is boring stuff to write about, but it’s wonderfully effective. I felt the disconnection. Callie’s lack of emotion thoroughly engaged mine, which is precisely what I want from a book.
I also appreciated that the root of the problem wasn’t bizarre or so unlikely as to be unbelievable. The root of the problem, it turns out, is almost mundane, but the family’s responses to the problem combine to make it unbearable for Callie. Another kid may not respond so dramatically to such a problem, but I can believe Callie does. There are no flat, two-dimensional bad guys causing the problem; Mom’s not evil, Dad’s not abusive. Rather, they are generally good people responding poorly to a difficult situation. Totally believable.
I’m probably also drawn to the book because working with kids like Callie was a career path I considered but ultimately didn’t take. I love the Callie’s of the world.
Your turn. What are you reading?