This short book first came out eighteen years ago but it’s still relevant today. It’s (fairly obviously) about a girl who cuts herself.
The book starts with Callie in the hospital—a mental ward—sitting with her therapist. Pretty quickly, we learn the circumstances of when she cut herself for the first time. And then we learn that she’s not speaking, at all. She has to go to these group therapy sessions with other girls who are there for different reasons—some have eating issues, some drug issues. So, very early on we’re set up to wonder why she’s cutting herself, if she’s going to talk, and what’s going to happen with her group.
McCormick obviously did her research on cutting and what drives people to it. She portrays Callie sympathetically without romanticizing cutting in any way. And she addresses how cutting can make people feel better at times but shows how that’s a fleeting thing. And it stops working:
The pain is so sharp, so sudden, I catch my breath. There’s no rush, no relief. Just pain, a keen, pulsing pain… It’s never hurt like this before. And it’s never not worked.
Callie is shown to have depth even though we don’t really get to know her reasons for cutting any sooner than the therapist. The other girls are portrayed realistically, too, and there’s an interesting subplot involving one of the anorexic/bulimic girls. And even though we see her brother Sam only once in story time, he is a good character and critical to the story.
Check this one out if you’re up for a short but deep portrait of a troubled teen.