Cut by Patricia McCormick

Blurb from the back: Callie cuts herself. Never too deep, never enough to die. But enough to feel the pain. Enough to feel the scream inside. Now she's at Sea Pines, a "residential treatment facility" filled with girls struggling with problems of their own. Callie doesn't want to have anything to do with them. She doesn't want to have anything to do with anyone. She won't even speak. But Callie can only stay silent for so long...

Cut is a young adult novel about a girl at a residential treatment facility- what landed her there and her life within the walls of an institution. I picked it up because I work at a RTF and a lot of my residents cut. I wanted to understand from their perspective, from inside the mind of a teenage girl who feels so much pain she knows no other way to deal with it. Granted, this is fiction, but I see it every single day and I must say- Patricia McCormick really did do her homework.
Callie runs. Callie cuts. Callie refuses to speak. Throughout the book you have to ponder why. What is she running from? What pain is she releasing from her superficial cuts? What is she hiding and how long can she hide behind her own wall of silence? Slowly we peel back the layers to find a troubled girl with a heavy burden on her shoulders. Understanding where she is coming from is easy- we all have troubles and we all have suffering in our lives. But why does she address this pain with self injurious behaviors?
Cutting releases pain for many people. Feeling the burn of skin opening and revealing the crimson color of blood. The pain of cutting relieves the internal pain because it brings that person back to reality- the reality of physical pain to numb the emotional pain taking over the mind.
Callie doesn't speak. Refusing to talk is a form of control and power. If you refuse to discuss a topic, then it can't be brought out and waved in front of your face. You don't have to face an issue if you won't talk about it... it is almost like out of sight out of mind. If i ignore the topic long enough, it will just go away. Refusing to speak is also a dissociative trait. Becoming so wrapped up in your own sorrow and pain, reliving experiences and thoughts in your mind, silence is the barrier that needs to be broken to remove yourself from the overpowering intrusive thoughts.
As readers, we struggle with Callie. We feel her pain and understand her thoughts. We feel empathy for her broken soul. Callie learns lessons throughout the book, but also teaches her audience. She teaches us to let go and move on. She teaches us about relationships and how human contact, no matter how small, can help us through our toughest times. And for those of us who have never before experienced life in a residential treatment facility, you see both the good and evil. We get a glimpse at how the population receiving treatment feels and how it looks from the inside.
All in all, I liked this book. I thought it showed cutting and pain in a new light- the protagonist takes us along for a ride. I also enjoyed how Callie experienced the RTF alone and how she experienced it with her peers. Cut is an easy read (literally speaking) but emotionally difficult, especially if you have any sort of tie to the subject. My biggest issue with the book is that it somewhat glamorizes cutting. Many books on the subject do. The blurb on the back says it all - "...never enough to die." Yes, maybe so, but I think the approach - cutting as a way to relieve the pain - is too much for young adults. Young adults are influenced by everything around them- I would hate to see this book end up in the hands of a depressed teen with little comfort and support from her family. While the book does not suggest cutting as a means to get through the pain, it does imply that cutting will release the hurt. Even with Callie landing in an RTF, a young adult going through pain and with nowhere to put it, the implied concept of cutting may be too much.
I recommend this book, but with caution. If you are allowing your teen to read it, kudos! I think they should. But make sure you take time to read it also, and discuss the book. Dig deep into the theme of pain and suffering finding a release. Communication is key.


  1. wow! I might have to pick this up. I too work at an RTF but with latency aged boys, so I don't see that much cutting. You did a great review and I am honored to be on your links of inspiration!

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