Sarah's Stars

Julie Burtinshaw. The Perfect Cut
Raincoast  $11.95  ISBN 978-1-55192-816-6  308 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 14

"It's easy. They hide it. I've seen enough to know that. If he hadn't overdosed, he'd have ended up here anyway. Some of his wounds are septic."
"Oh, my God. Who found him?"
"His mother. She's in the waiting room with her husband. She's pretty shaken."
"They lost their daughter almost two years ago. Did she tell you what happened?"
"I gather she and Bryan had argued the night before. He went to bed upset and when she went to wake him up for school...well, you can guess the rest..."
"Did anyone find a note?"
"Not yet."

Two years ago Bryan's sister died in a car crash. But what Bryan's parents don't know is that Michelle had been planning to commit suicide anyways. Now the "golden" child of the family is gone and the wrath of their father and the aloofness of their mother rests on Bryan's shoulders. To make matters worse, Michelle sometimes appears to him and talks to him. Is it really a ghost? Or is it all in his mind? Soon enough, Bryan as well sinks into a depressed funk. To escape he uses a method borrowed from his sister... cutting. Then alcohol as well. As Bryan reaches his breaking point he begins to skip school, choosing to wander around in downtown Vancouver instead. There he meets Chris, a drug addict who offers some of his stash to Bryan after the boy treats Chris kindly. And then, rock bottom. Bryan attempts suicide just like his sister before would have done. Weak and angry in a hospital bed, Bryan has two choices. He can take the path that leads to healing, or the path that leads to destruction. But which one will it be?

The Perfect Cut is not in fact, about hair. It's about heavy issues like depression, suicide and the heart of the book, self-injury, which is typically known as cutting, or the act of "slitting ones wrists". This is not a book that will make you smile and feel good about yourself. It's about getting lost and losing sight of what life is worth living for. It's about broken people and broken families. It's about death and vulnerability and sadness. It's about violence and drugs and alcohol. But most importantly, it is a book about love. A book about community. A book about healing.

A book about hope.

The Perfect Cut is rough and raw and gritty and ugly but it will make you feel for the characters. At first I thought Bryan was a selfish jerk, which he was. It almost made me want to stop reading the book. But as the story progresses, you realize that things aren't as they seem and as you dig deeper, you realize Bryan can't help but be the way he is because life hasn't been kind to him. But then, things change. Things start to happen. Things like Chris and Stella, and Dr. Spahic.

The Perfect Cut is not a happy book that will make you giggle and pat yourself on the back. It will inspire you to do something, to get help, to change. Whether you've struggled with issues like this before, or you've seen them on TV, or heard them in music or just recognize similar stories from the news, The Perfect Cut is a realistic portrait of the life some teens have to face every single day. It is dirty and for some narrow-minded folk, inappropriate, but the one thing everyone can be sure about is that it is wholly and completely real.

I give Julie Burtinshaw's The Perfect Cut four stars.


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