Title: Cut Off
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Page Length: 384
Publication Date: Aug. 11, 2020
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Synopsis: Warcross meets Lost in this haunting young adult sci-fi thriller in which teens compete to survive in the wilderness for one million dollars on a new virtual reality show. When something goes horribly wrong and the contestants realize no one is coming to save them, they must question their very reality—and how much of the game is really for show.
Each contestant has their own reasons—and their own secrets—for joining the new virtual reality show CUT/OFF that places a group of teenagers alone in the wilderness. It’s a simple premise: whoever lasts the longest without “tapping out” wins a cash prize. Not only that, new software creates a totally unprecedented television experience, allowing viewers to touch, see, and live everything along with the contestants. But what happens when “tapping out” doesn’t work and no one comes to save you? What happens when the whole world seemingly disappears while you’re stranded in the wild? Four teenagers must confront their greatest fears, their deepest secrets, and one another when they discover they are truly cut off from reality. Sci-fi, mystery, and romance converge in this high-stakes, fast-paced read that will leave you guessing to the very last moment.
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I was fascinated by the premise of Cut Off – a bunch of teens are on a reality show where they are put in the wilderness with only basic supplies and drones following their every move. The last one left wins. It sounded Hunger Games-esque with a virtual reality spin. Viewers can virtually immerse themselves in the experience and see, smell, feel everything attached to one of the contestants.
One day, the last four contestants realize that they have lost all contact with the outside world. They are completely cut off from outside civilization, and no one is coming to help. Is it part of the show, or has something gone terribly wrong? This is what River, Cam, Liza, and Trip must figure out for the first half of the story. However, after several frightening experiences, the foursome realizes that something much more dangerous and unusual is going on.
This is an interesting read that went in a totally different direction than I expected. I found that refreshing. What started as a wilderness survival show used to exploit the vulnerabilities of teenagers for the sake of entertainment became an examination of different realities.
The well-developed and dynamic characters show tremendous growth throughout the novel. Each comes into the story with emotional baggage and fears that contribute to the plot. River suffered tremendous loss, which affected his life dramatically. He is thoughtful, solitary and fair, constantly trying to take care of and save others. Cam experienced terrible instances of domestic violence, which has shattered her trust in others. She is independent, strong, and determined. Trip feels rejected by those he loves most. He is smart, edgy, and craves attention. Liza has secrets that she doesn’t want the other to know. She is dodgy and brave. As the foursome get to know and help each other, they realize that they are not so different than they initially thought and that they make a really good team.
Though I said at the beginning of the review that the story initially reminded me of The Hunger Games, by the end it reminded me more of The Matrix or Inception. There are so many twists and turns, that it is sometimes hard to follow, but the concept behind their dire situation is fascinating.
- The main characters. River, Trip, Cam, and Liza are all very different but compliment each other well. They all grew emotionally in the midst of chaos, which I enjoyed reading.
- The futuristic, yet realistic, world that the author created. Many of the technology referenced in the story does not seem like a big stretch from what we utilize in society today. That is really cool and really scary.
- Topics like anxiety, facing ones fears, examining ones past, and learning to trust in others are deftly examined.
“Her giddiness caused a rush through his chest that was impossible to ignore. Everything was a mess, but he wanted that smile to stay.”
“You can’t really make fear go away, can you? It’s always there. You just have to find a way to deal with it.”
Readers of young adult sci-fi novels will like this story. I also think that people who like dystopian literature with an emphasis on virtual reality and other sci-fi technological concepts will like this book.