Cut Off

HMH. Aug. 2020. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780358006459.
Gr 7-10–Finlay’s second novel is a psychological thriller that takes characters on a journey to understand their deepest fears and desires. When River Adan and Cameron Jaimes sign up for the reality TV show Cut Off, they think they’re playing to see which teenager can outlast the others in the rugged outdoors. Instead they find themselves confronting a mystery: Where did the game hosts disappear to and what are the malevolent whispers Cam hears in the forest? To survive, the one-time competitors must learn to trust each other—and face the darkest parts of their personal histories. Readers will appreciate the narrative range in this book as it echoes survivalist themes while mixing in tropes common to horror and romance. The plot delivers a number of satisfying twists while slowly revealing the motivations of the main characters. The use of shifting perspectives keeps readers guessing about the story’s direction, but it also means the plot evolves slowly at the start, with some of the strongest character interactions coming near the end of the book.
VERDICT A genre-bending story that engages with themes of anxiety and trauma in imaginative ways. Recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers with elements of horror and romance.

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