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Time To Pretend

J.R. Johansson's Cut Me Free is a thriller about a girl who escapes from an attic and gets a new identity.

Time To Pretend

BOOK REPORT for Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson

Cover Story: Don’t Bolt
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Dear Diary
Bonus Factor: Thriller
Anti-Bonus Factor: Don’t Call the Authorities
Relationship Status: Just Friends

Cover Story: Don’t Bolt

I quite like the cover – it’s intriguing and gives it a nice dark thriller vibe. No shame, and good job, publishers!

The Deal:

Piper has spent her entire life in an attic, locked in with her little brother by her abusive parents. Her ailing grandmother snuck them food and books whenever possible, but after she and Piper’s little brother died, Piper escaped. Now she’s on the run, and needs a new identity.

With the help of a hacker, Piper becomes Charlotte and tries to settle into a new, normal life. She’s always looking over her shoulder, though, which leads her to notice a little girl showing signs of abuse. When Piper rescues the girl from her captor, she finds herself trying to protect Sanda, herself, and battling the constant fear that someone from their pasts may find them.

BFF Charm: Meh

I feel bad for Piper, I really do – she’s had a tough life, and she muddles through her newfound freedom surprisingly well. She has some good qualities, too, including her protectiveness toward Sanda. I just didn’t like her; her affect came off flat and constantly angry, but the reader never really finds out any details that would help them empathize. (There’s nothing wrong with being angry, especially after a rough childhood, but that doesn’t make me want to give her my BFF charm. Maybe a hug and a social worker.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Cam, the sexy hacker who provides Piper and Sanda with new identities, is a bit swoonworthy – but the love story in this book was all instalove. One moment, Piper would be paranoid and looking over her shoulder, and the next, she would be admiring and drooling over the shirtless Cam. The loins want what they want, I guess, but why is romance even a priority in this situation?

As a character, Cam was likeable, yet his constant need to push Piper into relaxing and trusting him made him seem less trustworthy. Plus, she was hardly kind or inviting toward him, so he either is a masochist, has a savior complex, or both.

Talky Talk: Dear Diary

The book is narrated by 17-year-old Piper, whose voice seems off for someone who has been trapped in an attic her entire life. She read books (smuggled in by her grandmother, including Flowers in the Attic) to educate herself, but there’s a big gap between what you learn in books versus functioning in the real world.  The first half of the book was incredibly compelling, but Piper’s narration never rung true for me.

Bonus Factor: Thriller

I love psychological thrillers, and even though this one didn’t hit the mark for me, I hope we see more of this in the YA world.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Don’t Call the Authorities

There are some serious Pretty Little Liars levels of anti-police paranoia in this book. Piper has one major reason for not calling the cops, but given that she is a juvenile who spent her entire life in an attic being routinely abused, I’m pretty sure the legal system would be fairly understanding.

Casting Call:

India Eisley as Piper/Charlotte

Tyler Blackburn as Cam

Relationship Status: Just Friends

Book, you were a fun adventure, but ultimately we weren’t right for each other. Maybe we’ll see each other around.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received an ARC from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one.  Cut Me Free will be available January 27th.

Jennie's photo About the Author: Jennie Kendrick lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness of historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. When she's not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs an Etsy shop, and thrifts for vintage everything.