We’re back this week to recommend The First Cut by Layla Harding, which deals with some pretty heavy subjects in a skilled and quite original way. I whipped through the first few chapters at a great pace, immediately drawn in by damaged teenager Cam. The chatty narration is smart and realistic.
The opening chapter is very dark and not for the squeamish, but ultimately very compelling. There is something Holden Caulfield-esque about Cam, who narrates her own story. Her disdain for the people around her, whether her parents or the coffee shop ‘psuedo-intellectuals pretending to have meaningful conversations,’ and her methodical approach to self-harm, reveal a coldness that goes beyond teenage angst. Or perhaps she’s trying to convince herself she doesn't care. We see a sensitive side in her relationship with best friend Maggie, and the friendship she strikes up with a stranger, it will be interesting to see how this storyline develops, and Cam's character with it.
While some aspects of the story don’t feel fully developed, the aforementioned friendship with a stranger doesn't quite ring true as it stands, Cam is a compelling and original character, so why not take a look? Here's the pitch, which is also the opening of the book:
I started practicing suicide when I was twelve years old, and I was a devout follower.
I started practicing suicide when I was twelve years old. That’s kind of funny. It makes it sound like some sort of religion I picked up. I’m a non-practicing Catholic… I’m a practicing suicide. I guess in a way it was a religion, with its simple routines and services. I was a devout follower. I always locked my bedroom door. I don’t know why I did this. My mother never came into my room, and if my father wanted in a lock wouldn’t stop him. It never did. Then I chose my music. Something soothing but not too poignant – certainly nothing controversial. Nothing infuriated me more than when some kid blew his brains out with Marilyn or Ozzy spinning and all of a sudden it was the musician’s fault. Marilyn and Ozzy weren’t the problem. The demon lurking in the dark didn’t sing. He didn’t bite the heads off live bats or wear make-up. He just whispered.