Rating- **** 4 stars
When reading Cutter I was very emotional. Not just because it touches a lot of topics from Teen Drinking to Drugs, to partying and being destructive. But it touched a topic that hit me in a way I cannot describe- Cutting or in clinical terms Self Mutilation.
The emotional discord found inside of the main character Jessica, had me in tears through most if not all of the book. This kind of displaced feeling, sorrow, depression, abandonment is something I think most of the average teenager goes through. I have also felt similar feelings growing up.
Cutter shed light on so many issues affecting teens, from peer pressure to anxiety, self pity, insecurity, lack of self value. It shows that these sorts of feelings can be found in any class, middle or otherwise and it is a serious if not life threatening station.
I felt so strongly for Jessica that I wished I could help her somehow. I also felt like there was just too much being thrown at this young girl that it would only be a matter of time until she did something catastrophic. It was an undeniably heart wrenching read, and I do hope all those that delve into the pages have at least a few boxes of tissues.
This is definitely a book to read to your daughter or sister, loved ones. Even young men should know the dangers of peer pressure. I also think it will be an ice breaker to broach topics that sometimes as parents we feel we can’t approach with our kids. This is an eye opener, it will make all aware of these dangers, the emotional toll they take, and give us a better understanding of what steps to take should someone close to us have these issues or circumstances.
It also brought to light how as parents we don’t see the damage we can do to our child, with words or lack of them. Without affection or even a minute to just talk about menial things. Kids crave attention no matter the age and if we take a second out of our busy lives to recognize them- it will go a long way.
I realize I have went on a tangent, but after reading this book I have opened my eyes to see a bigger picture I didn’t know or realize was there. These things do happen whether we want to see it or not. And although I have two toddlers right now a boy and girl, I know that if or when (thought I pray not!) I ever have a crisis on my hands, or just when they reach the age where these sorts of situations are around, I can make this book a family read to talk in-depth about what to do, how to act and should they slip that we can discuss it. That we can find a safer way to cope.
The only fault I could find in this book was the end left me incomplete. I needed more, and hope there is a continuation of Jessica’s story so that I as a reader feel that she has had some closure. I wanted to know more about her group and individual therapy. I wanted to see if her friends stayed true or if they fell off somehow as her support system. I wanted to know if there was change in her family structure.
But other than that it was a very touching read. I would recommend this to everyone.
****** For those who know anyone with a condition that is or can be described as self mutilation, please seek help for them now. Don’t give up on them and continue to be a supportive hand. Not everyone has the same walk of life, we deal with situations differently. Take the time to listen, help them as much as you can and most importantly don’t give up on them. And if at all possible, read this book together. Sometimes it takes an outside source to show others they have a problem, and could give them the motivational tools to seek help.******
Click on Read More for Our Exclusive Interview with Tangela Steele
DWED: First, tell us a little about yourself.
Tangela: Cutter is my debut novel, and I am excited. Writing has always been a passion of mine, but it has only been recent that I've made the choice to pursue it. The road is rough, but I'm happy that I decided to reach for the stars. The sky is the limit. Personally, I am a proud mother of a 2-year old girl (she keeps me VERY busy), and I have been married for three years. This is my fifth year teaching, and I love working with kids. My students inspire me to write and never give up. If I'm teaching them to reach the perceived unattainable, then I need to practice what I teach. I am a PROUD graduate of Florida State University (Go 'Noles) and love watching them during football season.
DWED: Have you always aspired to be a published author?
Tangela: Writing has always been on the back of mind, and I wrote a little here and there. In the past year or two is when I decided to take it seriously. I will never forget the last line of my college freshman English class paper that stated, "Will I ever pursue becoming an author. I do not know. I guess we will all know whenever we see my name written (or not written) on a book in the future." It's nice to say that my name is written on a book. I found myself getting lost in life and everything that comes along with it, but I'm happy that I came back to my first love...writing.
DWED: Would you say the journey was easy or hard? Why?
Tangela: I still consider myself a rookie in this "book writing game", but the road is definitely a difficult one. It is all about advertising oneself and finding the right break at the right time. I have always had the idea to self-publish and never thought about going that standard route of finding an agent in order to get my writing out in the mainstream...until I actually self-published. This was a reality check for me, and I realized just how much work it really is. Everything is on me...advertising, promotion, editing....everything. I have been thinking about going the standard route lately, but we'll see what happens. Whatever God has for me is for me.
DWED: Who would you say inspired you to write?
Tangela: My family has always been my inspiration. They believe in me even when I don't believe in myself. My mom gets super excited for me every step of the way...no matter what it is. I look at her like 'that's nothing; I still have a long ways to go.' But she reminds me, every step is a step in the right direction...I need to celebrate and appreciate the small things. The journey is what matters the most! My husband also encourages me. He bounces ideas at me and helps me through my writer's blocks. I also want to teach my daughter that she can do anything she sets her mind to. I want her to do what makes her happy in life. In order for me to teach her that, I have to lead by example.
DWED: Are you a part of a book club or organization?
Tangela: I am a proud member of Women With Words Bookclub. The sisterhood and bond that we have built over the years is encouraging and indescribable. It is amazing that a group of women can get together, read books, and socialize with no drama. They have taught me the true meaning of sisterhood, and I appreciate them for it.
DWED: Let’s delve into your writing. Can you tell us what inspired Cutter?
Tangela: Working with teenagers is a very eye opening experience. This generation of youth experience so much so early until it is only right and necessary to shed light on what they are going through. I think we get so caught up in life until we forget to TRULY educate our kids. We want them to be book smart, but we also want them to be smart about life and choices. In some ways, I feel that we do our kids a disservice in preparing them for the "real world." I am honored to be a teacher, but more honored to be able to touch young lives. Our kids suffer from a lot of stress and pressure, and some choose cutting as a way of coping and dealing with that.
DWED: Was there someone close to you who suffered from this condition?
Tangela: My first experience with cutting was about 18 years ago when I was in 8th grade. Someone I knew would cut herself and attempt suicide. I didn't know anything about it, and I didn't understand her thought process. I can blame it on being too young or I could blame it on being abnormal at the time or for my community. Either way, I just thought, 'how weird.'
4 years later, I find myself in a similar situation. I was a senior in high school. I was going through a lot at home. I have always been an introvert and tend to keep my feelings and problems to myself. Yeah, I was a cheerleader and everyone knew me, but not too many people actually KNEW me. Anyway, I remember reading an article on cutting and thought 'well maybe I should try that. Maybe it will help me deal with my problems.' I took the razor and put it to my arm. Just as I was about to cut, something stopped me. I say it was God; I don't know. However, after learning everything that I have learned about cutting, I thank God that I didn't go that route.
DWED: In Cutter, you address not only self mutilation but many topics from teen drinking and drugs, is this more of a way to shed light on the mental toll such occurrences take on teens lives or just to bring awareness to the fact that it does happen?
Tangela: It's a little bit of both I guess. People want to cover their eyes and ears when these topics arise, but they are real. As a 9th grade teacher, I have heard stories from the kids themselves about drinking, partying, doing drugs, sneaking out of the house, drinking and driving, and just being reckless. Our kids ARE doing these things, and we need to realize that. The only way to address the situation is to be aware of it. Once we are aware and make the decision to intervene, then we are in a better place to help and properly guide the future. Otherwise, we just may lose our kids along the way.
DWED: One of the things that struck me as damaging to Jessica was the troubled relationship between her mother and herself, also the lack of presence from both parents. Can you tell us more about that?
Tangela: Jessica was fortunate in that her parents were rich and able to provide for her financial. However, they were not there for her mentally or emotionally. They did not provide the proper guidance, love and support that was so desperately needed. Yes, Jessica's parents were always away from home, but this happens with parents who are always home. Parents are getting more wrapped up in work and life than their children. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard a student say that their parents do not pay them any attention or give them the proper guidance, I would be rich. It is essential for parents to ask questions and have conversations with their children. I always say, I would rather teach my daughter the right way than have others teach her the wrong way. This pretty much means that I am going to have to have those tough conversations with my daughter. I am going to have to talk about those tough topics. ALL parents need to do that. Just because a parent is there physically does not mean that parent is there emotionally. In Jessica's case, her parents were far out of the picture. They did little to aid her through the years.
DWED: Will there be another installment or sequel to this book?
Tangela: Cutter is the first of a series to come. My goal is to shed light on the many mental and social problems that inflict the youth. Cutter is just the first. I am currently working on a book entitled "In This Skin." It is about a young black girl who hates the skin color God has given her. The many stereotypes and negative perceptions of people who look like her have taken a toll on her self-esteem.
DWED: What can we look forward to seeing from you throughout 2013?
Tangela: "In This Skin" does not have a release date just yet, but I am hoping to have it out towards the end of year.
DWED: What other avenues are you using to promote your work and yourself?
Tangela: I finally have a Facebook page. You can find me under T.S. Martin or https://www.facebook.com/pages/TS-Martin/186945854786321?skip_nax_wizard=true.
I am also on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/15347960-tan and Shelfari at http://www.shelfari.com/o1514871350. I am still working on getting more into the social networks. It is a work in progress.
DWED: What would you say to all aspiring authors like yourself?
Tangela: Don't give up! It's not easy, but anything that you really want and desire isn't going to be easy to obtain. The true reward and appreciation stems from the WORK that has been put into it.
DWED: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like your readers and potential readers to know about both your work and yourself?
Tangela: Get the book, lol. Seriously, life is a journey...make the most of it. You never know where you might end up. The most important part is to have fun and enjoy the journey to your destination.