You say it's up to me to do the talking. You lean forward and your black leather chair groans, like a living thing. Like the cow it was before somebody killed it and turned it into a chair in a shrink's office in a loony bin! Fifteen-year old Callie is so withdrawn that she's not speaking to anyone -- including her therapist at Sea Pines, known to its guests as 'Sick Minds' -- the residential treatment facility where her parents and doctor send her after discovering that she cuts herself. Her story unfolds primarily through dramatic monologues, gradually revealing the family turmoil that led to her self-destructive behaviour.
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Burdened with the pressure of believing she is responsible for her brother's illness, 15-year-old Callie begins a course of self-destruction that leads to her being admitted to Sea Pines, a psychiatric hospital the "guests" refer to as Sick Minds. Although initially she refuses to speak, her individual and group therapy sessions trigger memories and insights. Slowly, she begins emerging from her miserable silence, ultimately understanding the role her dysfunctional family played in her brother's health crisis.
Patricia McCormick's first novel is authentic and deeply moving. Callie suffers from a less familiar teen problem--she cuts herself to relieve her inner frustrations and guilt. The hope and hard-won progress that comes at the conclusion of the novel is believable and heartening for any teen reader who feels alone in her (or his) angst. Along with Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak and E.L. Konigsburg's Silent to the Bone, McCormick's Cut expertly tackles an unusual response to harrowing adolescent trouble. (Ages 14 and older) --Emilie CoulterFrom the Author:
I entered the locked ward with some trepidation. The girls on the other side of the door were all confined there because of dangerous things they'd done with sharp objects: shards of glass, box cutters, knives. Friends had questioned my decision to visit the ward. But these girls weren't dangerous to others: they were hurting themselves.
I was nervous because I'd written a manuscript about a girl who cut herself - and I'm not a cutter. I was sure the girls would call me out as phony, as a poser, as someone who'd exploited their pain. I'd spent more than two years working on the book - but I was prepared to toss it the garbage if these girls told me that I had no right to try to tell their story.
One by one, they approached me. With curiosity, with a nervousness of their own. And one by one, they told me their stories. Stories of terrible violence - committed against themselves. But what moved me even more was the secrecy and isolation they suffered.
One girl, a pretty blond with expressive blue eyes, told me she'd worn a turtleneck when she went to the beach with her family; no one asked why. Another girl, with an adorable boyish hair cut and mischievous eyes, said she kept going to the same hardware store to get bigger blades - wishing that the man behind the counter would ask her what she was doing with them. And another girl described telling her parents transparent lies about her cuts - blaming on them on the cat or 'falling on a coke bottle' - always hoping they'd see through her stories.
What I realized then was that they wanted to be found out. They were caught in a cycle of hurting themselves, then being terribly ashamed and afraid of what they'd done, feelings that would drive them to hurt themselves again - each time, a little worse. They were practically advertising what they were doing - because they didn't know how to stop.
Some told friends - then begged their friends not to say anything. Those friends were then pulled into the secret and struggled with their own guilt and worry. But a lot of the girls at SAFE Alternatives, the center I visited, were there because of those friends. Friends who were willing put their friendship on the line - by telling a trusted adult - because they recognized that it was a secret too dangerous to keep.
Since CUT was published I've heard from thousands of readers: girls who said the book prompted them to get help, concerned friends and parents, teachers and therapists who wanted to understand what a behavior that confused and frightened them.
Most moving, though, were the comments from the girls in that locked ward. They all read my manuscript - then asked to see my scars. I told them, with some hesitation, that I made the story up, that I had never self-injured. 'But you told my story,' they each said. 'How could you know how it felt?' And it dawned on me, then, finally, why I identified with them, why I'd written the book in the first place.
I was that girl in the book - the girl who was so lonely, so angry and hurt - and so confused that I couldn't put it all into words. I remember all too well how alone I felt. I did some self-destructive things - I think we all do - and took on responsibility and shame for things that weren't really mine to shoulder. The facts of my life were different from theirs; the emotional truth was the same.
The girls at SAFE Alternatives gave me their blessing to publish the book. In fact, they were really pleased to see that their experience - something cloaked in secrecy and shame would be put into words. With their own recovery underway, they hoped that others who were struggling with self-injury would feel less alone and get help. By giving Callie a voice, they said, the book was giving them a voice.
But it was those girls who gave me the biggest gift. They gave me the confidence to believe in the power of a fiction - to connect us more deeply, perhaps, than the facts ever could.
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Book Description CollinsFlamingo, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0007130317