title: The Cutting Room Floor
author: Dawn Klehr
format: Netgalley Kindle
buy it: Amazon Goodreads B&N
rating: 3/5 [in the genre] or 5/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
recommended for: Fans of horror movies, thrillers, and romance gone dark. Anyone who loved Cruel Intentions, The House at the End of the Street, or similar teen flicks. Yes, I said "flicks."
My Ratings Explained
Life in the Heights has never been easy for seventeen-year-old Riley Frost, but when she's publicly dumped and outed at the same time, she becomes an immediate social outcast at her high school. So Riley swears off romance and throws herself into solving the shocking murder of her favorite teacher, Ms. Dunn.
Riley turns to her best friend, budding filmmaker Desmond Brandt, for help. What she doesn't know is that Dez has been secretly directing her life, blackmailing her friends, and hoping his manipulations will make her love him. When his schemes go too far, Dez's web of lies threatens to destroy both of their lives.
the basicsI admit, I was a little let down. The concept is great. Manipulative best friend? Clueless victim? Sounds like the plot of a good SVU episode. Unfortunately, it just missed the bar a little bit. The plot was full of holes and seemed to have no real direction at times. You knew the twist from the beginning, so it wasn't until about halfway through that I really felt any suspense--which is kind of key if you're going for a thriller. I'll admit, for most of the second half, I couldn't put it down. Even though it wasn't my cup of tea as far as characters or writing, it became really compelling. Klehr clearly has talent. I just didn't connect with this the way I wanted. It did have it's high points, however. The ending defied my expectations, it shows lesbian relationships in a super normative sweet way, and it takes a good stab at making a sympathetic villain. However, in the end, it was an entertaining but forgettable read. I think it has a lot to offer someone looking for an entertaining, quick read, but it just didn't have what I personally was looking for.
plot . 3.5/5A book can work really well when you know the twist from the outset. It's a great technique for literary fiction and, ya know, dramatic irony is cool. Unfortunately, this one just didn't do it for me. For one, it feels a little too over-the-top in places. The nefarious Tori Rollers are a little too Disney channel to feel realistic, and not in the right story to work as humorous. Dez's schemes also don't take center stage for a while, and the murder mystery doesn't build right away, so it took a while to get into. I'm actually having a hard time remembering what even happened--except that Riley jumps to some pretty unbelievable conclusions after watching a tape. That shifts in the second half. The murder mystery becomes central, Dez's schemes start to pick up in a way that really affects Riley's future, and everything becomes more dangerous. It was really compelling, and unfortunate that it hadn't happened earlier. The twist was also a little unexpected. It was actually similar to Insomnia by J.R. Johansson (which I actually read second), but didn't have the rest of the pieces working for it.
concept . 5/5Even though I wasn't impressed with the execution, the concept shows a lot of cleverness. You don't see a lot of books that deal with controlling, creepy behavior as a bad thing. Instead, some of the same things Dez does are done by other guys in other books and it's supposed to be "cute". Gag me with a spoon. Klehr takes those behaviors and looks at how damaging they are to both perpetrator and victim. Honestly, I thought the whole murder thing was a little superfluous and that she could have done more with the main concept, but it does add some higher stakes.
characters . 3/5The characters were okay, I just couldn't connect with them enough. Riley felt pretty flat, even in her first-person bits. She didn't have as strong a voice as Dez. I actually enjoyed a lot of his voice. The way he narrated parts of his life as movie scripts was unique and added a lot of depth to his character and how he views the world. The director of movies / director of Riley was a clever touch. Riley, on the other hand, just felt like damsel in distress. I couldn't really connect with her pain as clearly as I could connect with Dez's. I think that's what made it hard for me to get into the book, because Riley was clearly the victim and I didn't see her as a real person. Unfortunately, Riley and Dez don't always seem to act like real people. For example, Riley sees a tape early on and jumps to some crazy conclusions about her friend--but anyone who doesn't know they're in a murder mystery would never logically think that. They just seem to act in ways that serve the plot but not the realism of the story. Also, I love Fight Club, but I'm not sure a real film buff would worship it as much as Dez.
style . 3/5The style was a little inconsistent. Dez's parts are pretty good, with the script scenes, but a lot of the dialogue in both his and Riley's parts is a little stilted. Nothing else was super glaring, but nothing really stood out for me either.
mechanics . 3/5The pacing needed some work. If the first half had had the pacing of the second, I'd be giving this book a much higher score. Instead, it dragged a lot and took too long to catch me up.
take home messageThis young adult thriller is entertaining but ultimately didn't live up to my expectations.
Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.