Published by Flux on October 8th, 2013
Genres: coming of age, mystery-thriller, young adult
Buy on Amazon
EXT. THE FROSTS' FRONT PORCH - NIGHT The camera moves in on RILEY FROST, a beautiful 17-year-old girl with long dark hair, crying on the porch step. RILEY (voiceover) The gossip has spread far and wide. My secret girlfriend publicly dumped and outed me at the same time, and now I'm on social death row. But that's not the worst of it. My favorite teacher, Ms. Dunn, was murdered at school. Now I'm beginning to feel like I'm trapped in a whodunit movie. And I can't help thinking that Ms. Dunn's killer is close by. CUT TO: CLOSE UP: DESMOND BRANDT DEZ, a handsome 17-year-old boy, peers through his window at RILEY. DEZ (voiceover) I do this a lot--watch my life through the eyes of a director. I want to be that one person in charge. I wish I didn't crave control. But I do . . . badly. And though I might not be able to control Riley, I can help get her to where she needs to be. Convince. Persuade. Protect. I'll make Riley love me, even if it means I have to play the villain.
Sometimes a book goes wrong because it tries to do so many things at once, and fails to execute any of them in an excellent manner. That was the case here with The Cutting Room Floor. This book tried too hard to be lots of different things–murder mystery, girl confused about her sexuality, thriller, homage to film and theatre, small-town corruption, obsessive stalker love–and failed to bring them all together in one epic conclusion.
I will admit, I enjoyed a major part of this novel. But when I got a little past the halfway point and the murder mystery completely disappeared–where did it go?–I got frustrated. Not to mention, the story thread about the town mayor and Tori was completely dropped and not resolved. The murder was solved just in time for the lackluster conclusion, and that was where I threw up my hands and said screw it. Everything about this book was just mediocre. The characters were flat–the person who killed Ms. Dunn was in all of about three scenes–and I just did not care for any of them. I don’t know if it was a case of poor writing or maybe there were just too many characters period, but I was unimpressed.
I will say that Riley’s fumbling through her confusion over her sexuality seemed realistic to me. I don’t know because I have never faced what she did, but I think it was handled well. I think it would probably go down in a real high school the way that it did in Riley’s life. I was bothered by her relationship with Dez, and I was supposed to be. I liked being in the head of a character who was calculating and pretty disgusting. I thought at first I was supposed to like him, but the more he kept talking and acting, the more I was repulsed. And I did love the way the author made me feel conflicted over him. There were times I felt sorry for him because he was just so pathetic. Some of the things he did made me angry though. Like when he tried to convince Riley she was straight. UGH. I wanted to vomit. But again, as angry as it made me, I think it was handled in a respectful way and with regard for Riley’s decision. So no, I didn’t have any problems there.
My issues were all technical for the most part. I was unimpressed with the writing. I found it lackluster, flat, missing inspiration and a spark. I already mentioned the cardboard characters, but I didn’t feel much tension in the scenes where there should have been some. I feel like the author used the film lingo leading into scenes almost as a crutch. Instead of building conflict through the characters, we were told what was going on through the stage directions. I thought I would like that at first because it was unique, but in the end, it fell flat for me. I don’t feel it accomplished what it set out to do.
All in all, not really impressed with The Cutting Room Floor. I didn’t figure out who the murderer was, but that’s sort of because I didn’t really even try. I wasn’t invested enough to care. I feel there were too many open threads that were never closed, and the main reason for that is the book felt all over the place. Which is a shame because I think if it had been trimmed down some, there might have been something special here. But as it is, not so much.