Title: The Cutting Room Floor
Author: Dawn Klehr
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
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.
This book wasn’t quite what I expected. When I first read about it, I expected that The Cutting Room Floor would be glaringly suspenseful and creepy. What I got was a novel that was quieter, still with a certain amount of creep and suspense, but creep and suspense that unraveled more slowly.
I really liked that this book had two narrators, because I feel like I’m not seeing multiple narrators as much anymore. YA is in love with single first person, so it was nice to take a little break from that with Riley and Dez. I will admit, however, that there were times when I wished that Dez would narrate the whole story, because I found him more interesting than Riley.
I feel like the best way to describe this book would be “subtle.” The murder mystery, Dez’s creepiness, and Riley’s relationship troubles all seemed to get equally balanced attention, and while I did wish for more intensity at times, Klehr’s slowly unraveling story worked for me.
My favorite part of the story was Dez and Riley’s relationship. Klehr’s quiet style worked especially well with that aspect of the story. I think that by writing about Dez’s manipulations in so casual and unassuming a way made it more creepy than if it had been nail-bitingly suspenseful because it normalized what Dez was doing, even though it’s clear that there’s something wrong.
I also thought Klehr handled Riley’s struggle with her sexuality well. She explored Riley’s confusion through the lens of sexuality as a fluid thing, rather than the typical binary of gay or straight. In most books about bisexual characters I’ve read, the person seems to be convinced they have to be one or the other, and have a very hard time seeing anything in the middle. I liked that Riley never came to a solid definition or label of her sexuality by the time the book ended, because it showed that you don’t have to confine yourself so other people can understand.
The Cutting Room Floor had its pros and cons, but eventually I warmed up to it though I had wanted something different from it. It’s worth reading for the strange relationship between Dez and Riley, but don’t come into it expecting to be on the edge of your seat the whole time.