Cuts Both Ways – Candice Brathwaite
Candice Brathwaite is a best-selling author, TV Presenter and Instagram Influencer. Her Outfit of the Day posts are completely joyful and I follow her posts avidly. So, I was very excited to read her first book written for the YA audience, Cuts Both Ways.
The story follows Cynthia, who is adapting to her new life following the death of her brother. She finds herself in unfamiliar territory, moved out of London by her father, who wants a fresh start for his family and is enrolled in an elite private school. Here she finds herself caught between two brothers, Thomas and Isaac, one Black, one white but both vying for her affections. Things take a sinister turn, however, when Cynthia realises that the brothers are keeping secrets that link back to her old life in London.
This is love story, but more than that, it’s also an exploration of race and class, reflecting many of the issues that young, Black people face in Britain today. Speaking to a Sixth Former the other day, she commented that a lot of fiction books written with Black characters deal with trauma. This is no exception to that rule and I agree, wouldn’t it be great to get to a point where the everyday, unremarkable stories of Black teenagers were being written? Until society changes, I think it’s important to keep documenting these challenges and barriers. However, one of the highlights of this book, for me, was the glimpse into Cynthia’s everyday life, her conversations with her best friend, the excitement about what to wear for a date, a trip to the hairdressers. It’s not surprising, given the author’s love of beauty and fashion but I felt a genuine authenticity that I haven’t read in a YA book before.
I saw on the author’s Instagram that there won’t be a sequel to this book, which is a huge shame, as I would love to find out what the future holds for Cynthia.
(A YA novel for Year 9 and above.)