In Literature for Today’s Young Adults, Nilsen and Donelson write that one of the first things an author does is to “figure out how to get rid of the parents” so that the main character of the story can accomplish something alone (28). The most important moment in Cut arrives when Callie realizes she wants more than anything to get well. Though she arrives at this decision after an important talk with her father, Callie finds the strength within herself to remain at Sea Pines not just because it’s good for her, but because it’s in the best interests of her family. As the story ends, Callie remembers what she wanted so much “the day Tiffany went home, the day it first felt like spring, when I pictured kids riding bikes…‘I want to get better’” (McCormick, 167).
This is key to the story because it announces personal growth, an important theme of young adult fiction, both in books and movies. Callie achieves something very important when she finally communicates, although awkwardly, with her father. This in turn brings her to a decision that comes from a greater sense of self-awareness and of responsibility to those she loves. Inspired by the waitress at Dunkin’ Donuts, Callie understands the emotional needs of her father, allowing him to “fuss” over her when he arrives to take her back to Sea Pines (McCormick, 159). This is in keeping with another important theme in young adult fiction, one that opens the main character to the “possibility of emotional and intellectual growth through engagement with personal issues” (Nilsen & Donelson, 18).
In Cut, McCormick’s narrative style does two important things: it establishes a dramatic pace that draws the reader into the story; and keeps faith with young readers because it makes the reader feel sympathy for Callie’s plight and takes the story seriously. As Nilsen and Donelson point out, an author who treats the story with “condescension or nostalgia” will lose credibility with young readers. “In young adult books, the protagonists must be involved in accomplishments that are believable and still challenging enough to earn the reader’s respect” (34).
McCormick achieves “Lively, varied and imaginative language,” without being “patronizing and simplistic” (Nilsen & Donelson, 18).
The fact that Cut is an original and unusual tale does not make it any the less believable. Cutting, the problem that lies at the heart of the book, happens quite often in modern society; it is a behavior exhibited by a growing number of young people. As such, Cut manages to be relatable and hip, traits with which young readers are very familiar. Reality shows and other programs, which are very popular with today’s youth, are important channels of communication for young people because they are “edgy.” Consequently, “most popular books tell their stories at almost the same frantic pace and with the same emphasis on powerful images that viewers have come to expect from MTV” (Nilsen & Donelson, 29).
One of the most uplifting aspects of young adult literature is its use of humor as a way to offset depressing subject matter, such as the practice of cutting. It is important to young readers that the writer add a touch of off-beat humor that doesn’t make the story seem insignificant while making it easier for the reader to relate to her attempts to overcome a problem. One especially notable example is the habit of Sea Pines’ residents to call their facility “Sick Minds,” an attempt by Sydney, Callie and the others to soften the seriousness of their situation through humor. In this way they achieve a kind of victory of spirit.
Maybe most importantly, Cut leaves the reader with a sense of hope for the future, for Callie’s recovery and the emotional healing of her family. As the story ends, McCormick lets the reader know that Callie has come to the decision that she wants to get better and that she has hope for the future. Callie ends with a silent promise to her father – and to herself – that “tomorrow, I’m going down to your office first thing in the morning. And tell you everything” (McCormick, 168).
McCormick, Patricia. Cut. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, Inc., 2009.
Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Donelson, Kenneth L. Literature for Young Adult Readers. New York:
Pearson Education, Inc., 2009.