Title: The Cutting Room Floor
Author: Dawn Klehr
Genre: YA Contemporary, Mystery, LGBT
Publication Date: October 1, 2013 (Flux)
Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Synopsis: Behind-the-scenes secrets could turn deadly for Desmond and Riley.
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.
2.5/5 stars – Needs more of a focus so the bad gets thrown out and the good becomes great
Oh, The Cutting Room Floor. This one came really, really close to being great, but because it didn’t fully understand who it was (much like its co-narrator Riley!), I had a hard time understanding who it was too. With a stronger focus and a lot of story-snipping, The Cutting Room Floor could be a dark tale of the lengths people go to when they’re obsessed and think they’re in love. What do readers get? A story with that, a lukewarm exploration of a girl’s sexuality, and a badly written, unneeded murder mystery.
Dez’s obsession with Riley and the horrifying lengths he goes to in order to make her like him back are strongly written and fulfilled all my expectations. Had this been the entirety of what the novel was about, this would have been a four-star or even a five-star read. He just about takes the spotlight away from Riley because he’s that well-written and thoroughly characterized. As he reveals what all he’s done in his pursuit of Riley, you can only stare with wide eyes and a gaping jaw. Horror rooted in obsession is one of my favorite kinds of horror to read!
The storyline about Riley’s burgeoning sexuality and how she’s not sure if she’s into girls or boys is okay, but the way everyone seems to be afraid of bisexuality really puts a damper on it. It’s treated like she was straight, then a lesbian, then straight again. I could ask if anyone in this novel has heard of bisexuality, but since it’s brought up a few times, it appears they have.
However, it’s only brought up in a situation where it will go nowhere or when someone says “screw the labels” when it comes to sexuality. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s completely avoiding the issue instead of trying to address it. It is okay to openly say someone is bisexual. They are not disqualified from this even if they prefer men more at one time in their life and prefer girls more on another. GAH.
The murder mystery plot line is strong at first, but it quickly fizzles out, taking with it two important plot points that are neither brought up again nor resolved. When the killer is revealed, our narrators suddenly start throwing out all the evidence that person was the killer and acting like it was there all along–but readers never saw any of that evidence in the story. Rather than clever, it feels like someone gave up on trying to weave those clues into the story without making the killer’s identity obvious and decided to take the easy way out: hold it all in until the end and then backtrack. Doing so makes an already badly-written mystery even more frustrating.
In the end, this book needed a little more time in the editing room and more stuff left on the cutting room floor (it’s a pun that must be made!). The murder mystery is altogether unnecessary, the question of Riley’s sexual identity needs better handling, and Dez’s obsession with Riley is great but deserves more time.