Thank you for including my book in this list!
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Thank you for including my book in this list!
My publisher just sent me great news. The Perfect Cut has been reviewed in in Canadian Children’s Book News (Fall 2008 volume), and it was highly praised! I need a copy if any of my Vancouver friends should come across one.
Feedback is so rare, and I am always thrilled when one of my books gets noticed. I have heard from lots of teen readers and the comments are generally really encouraging. Thanks, Readers.
Fall 2008 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News:
After the death of his older sister Michelle, Brian has difficulty coping and begins withdrawing from his parents, school, and his friends. His only solace comes with cutting. In the few seconds it takes for the razor to break the skin, he feels alive, and it’s only when he takes things one step too far, and another tragedy nearly occurs, that Brian is able to confront his feelings and to live without cutting.
In her latest novel, author Julie Burtinshaw has created a raw and realistic look at cutting, which has become increasingly popular among young adults as a form of stress relief. The story is told primarily from Brian’s perspective and the reader will be drawn in by his bluntness and his genuine anguish as he spirals deeper out of control.
Not just another teen issue story, this rich, multi-layered plot peels back slowly, revealing another dimension with each layer, adding to the richness of the characters, and demonstrating that surface appearances don’t always give a complete picture.
While Brian’s ultimate breakdown was easily foreseeable, it is his journal revelations as part of his therapy that are the most heartwrenching and revealing, and the strong support network of friends and family that rally around him end the novel on a hopeful note, without succumbing to a happily-ever-after tidy ending that some readers might expect.
Suitable for teens ages 14 and up, this novel works well for opening up discussion about this important topic, and could be studied in conjunction with Monique Polak’s novel Scarred, published as part of James Lorrimer’s SideStreets series last spring, which also addresses teenage cutting.
— Rachel Steen
CM, Volume XV Number 4, October 10, 2008
The Perfect Cut.
Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 2008.
308 pp., pbk., $11.95.
Self – mutilation – Juvenile fiction.
Teenagers and death – Juvenile fiction.
Grades 10-12 / Ages 15-17.
Review by Myra Junyk.
*** ½ /4
Bryan had been in enough of his friends’ houses to realize that he had a lot more stuff than most kids his age. No one could ever accuse Dad of not being a hard worker – the guy never stopped. Money made their world turn, yet nobody ever talked about it in their house, just like nobody wore their shoes inside, or drank straight out of the milk jug or left the toilet seat up. Dad made the rules, and they followed them. In exchange, Bryan had all the privacy in the world, and that meant he could pretty much do as he pleased without having to explain himself.
And he had secrets – stuff he’d rather keep to himself. Who didn’t? Secrets – even the good ones – set you apart from others. And the bad ones? They ate away at your core. Bryan knew this from experience. In fact, sometimes he imagined his insides being gnawed away by the things he couldn’t tell anybody – the dark snippets of information that set him apart from others – from Mom and Dad.
Not that they cared enough to ask. An invisible border divided the house into two countries: the upstairs belonged to Bryan, the downstairs to his parents. Bryan knew there were times when his mother ventured into his territory to visit The Michelle Shrine and every couple of days, Stella, their housekeeper, climbed the stairs to the second floor with bucket and mop, broom and dustpan in hand.
Bryan has a dangerous secret. In order to deal with the pain of his grief for his older sister Michelle, Bryan has become totally withdrawn, abuses alcohol and uses a razor blade to cut himself. His high grades in grade 12 have deteriorated; he no longer communicates with his parents; he has broken up with his brilliant girlfriend Jessie. The relationship between his controlling father and submissive mother is also deteriorating quickly as they, too, try to deal with their grief. Although Burtinshaw tackles a very difficult subject – self-mutilation – her novel is not cloying or depressing. At the beginning of the novel, Bryan is wallowing in his grief. The graphic descriptions of his cutting episodes are not for the weak stomach. Readers will be strongly affected by these descriptions – particularly if they know someone who engages in this kind of behaviour. However, Bryan does try to get help. He has had several therapists, but none of them have helped him until he meets Dr. Spahic. He makes a connection with her and seems to start living again! He befriends a young runaway, Chris, who lives on the streets and is addicted to crystal meth. His ex-girlfriend, Jessie, even comes back into his life to try to help him work through his issues. By the end of the novel, Bryan has survived a suicide attempt brought on by his anti-depressant medication. Will he learn to cope with his grief? Will his parents’ marriage survive? What is the terrible secret he is keeping about the night that Michelle died?
The writer’s narrative technique is very interesting. Chapters vary in length depending on the need for detail. Some chapters are as short as a paragraph while others go on for several pages. Many paragraphs have only one or two word sentences. This choppy style is very effective to portray the agitation and anxiety felt by Bryan as he tries to cope with his life. The writer also uses italics to give the reader insight into Bryan’s innermost thoughts. As well, the two pivotal letters at the end of the novel – from Michelle and Bryan – are written in italics. This kind of font differentiation indicates crucial information for readers. Readers may want to re-read these sections and think carefully about them if they are to truly understand Bryan’s feelings and emotions.
Bryan is a complex, moody but realistic young man. His struggles to deal with his grief for his older sister will resonate with readers. Michelle was also a cutter, and she becomes a very real presence for readers. According to the information that Burtinshaw provides at the end of the novel, Bryan and Michelle’s self-destructive behaviour is more common than we think. She estimates that between 1 – 10 % of the teenage population is/are engaged in cutting behaviour. This novel brings this kind of behaviour out into the open. Burtinshaw lists several websites which would be useful, “If you self-injure, or you know someone who does…” Dealing with these complex mental health issues should not be secretive. We all need to know the indicators of this behaviour so that we can help those engaging in it!
Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate and author.
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Book Review from Chapters/Indigo
2 months ago
The detail and depth Julie Burtinshaw went into to describe this young mans life was unbelievably well done. I started this book, and neglect life until I was finished. From the very beginning I was drawn in to the story, as I have an interest in adolescent psychology, and I was not disappointed. For anyone looking for a great book that is about more than just first kisses or friend problems, I recommend this to you. Words cannot describe how much I LOVED this book. Thank you.
I was thrilled to see that my last book, The Perfect Cut, (Raincoast, 308 pages) was included in the Weekend Edition of The Vancouver Sun, (Saturday August 16/08) Editor’s Choice: 8 Recommended Titles From Recent Releases, with the following description:
The protagonist of Sadie Jone’s brilliant novel, The Outcast, slices into his own flesh with a blade when seeking release from his troubles. So does Bryan, the teenage protagonist of this tautly written novel for young adults by seasoned Vancouver YA writer Julie Burtinshaw. It’s a tricky subject, which she handles skillfully.”
Writers know that getting reviewed is not always easy — too often we send our work out into the world hoping that a sympathetic newspaper editor will show some interest and write a review — but, of course there are more new books than there are arts sections of papers, so when your book does get
attention in the media, it is a big deal.
And, when your book is reviewed in a really positive light there is no better feeling in the world. Hence, my delight when I discovered this piece in the Calgary Herald: weekend edition:
What’s new Young adult fiction
Kate Larking, For the Calgary Herald
Published: Sunday, August 03, 2008
The Perfect Cut
by Julie Burtinshaw
Canadian Burtinshaw offers up a story of pain and survival amid a shattered family.
Bryan doesn’t know how to cope after his older sister Michelle dies. He feels nothing but numb. The only things that make him feel remotely normal are vodka, pills and the blissful slice of a razor. Even then, all of those are temporary. And hearing his sister’s voice doesn’t help.
As his story unfolds, Burtinshaw shines with rich characters, authentic pain and diverse means of coping. The Perfect Cut is a standout novel, sure to win Burtinshaw readers’ hearts, inspiring hope in those who suffer and understanding in those who do not.
A book is a collaboration between the writer, the editor and the publisher. Too often, in my opinion, we forget to mention the designer, which is why I want to send a big shout out to Five Seventeen. We’ve never met, but that doesn’t matter. He is responsible for the stunning cover and design of The Perfect Cut — now in bookstores all over.
I don’t know what his process is — artists are a mystery to me — I can barely draw a stick person — but Five Seventeen (visit his website for an explanation of his name), somehow managed to capture the tone and sense of Bryan’s story and create a unique and vivid portrait of my main character, that oddly looked exactly as he did in my imagination.
This is huge. I mean, imagine if he’d got it all wrong! I have to live with this cover for unforeseeable years down the road — and I will — with pride and a sense of relief.
So often, the illustrator/cover designer is not acknowledged the way he/she should be, but I want to change all that by saying “thank-you,” and by encouraging anyone who needs some creative talent to visit Five Seventeen’s website.