Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson

cut me free by j r johansson Cut Me Free by J.R. JohanssonBuy Cut Me Free
Special price $14.26 Regular price: $19.63
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Hardcover
Reviewer: Melissa on February 10, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte barely escaped her abusive parents a year ago, but at least she made it out. Her little brother, Sam, wasn’t as lucky. Now, in J.R. Johansson’s Cut Me Free, she’s trying to begin the new life she always dreamed of living outside their attic prison, but never thought she’d have to experience by herself. With the help of a techie-genius named Cam, who has a knack for forgery, she’s getting rid of the last ties to her former life. If only the memories would leave so easily. When she sees a little girl with obvious bruises and burn marks, her terrible childhood won’t let her ignore a child who needs her help. That’s precisely when she begins to receive threatening messages left around and in her apartment. And they’re addressed to Piper, her old name. As the messages grow in frequency and urgency, she needs not only to discover who is leaving them, but also stop them before anyone else she cares about ends up in a shallow grave.

If you’re only looking for a realistic YA novel that delivers an emotional punch, then this might not be the novel for you. However, for readers, like myself, who appreciate complex character development, dark subject matter, and a thriller that will make you breath shallow, your heart pound, and is psychologically authentic, then please, do yourself a favor and read Cut Me Free. I read it in the closest thing to one sitting one can have when starting and finishing it on a workday.

To put it simply, I just didn’t want to put it down. In part, I was drawn to how genuine Charlotte was. I read that Johansson studied psychology, so it’s no wonder that both Charlotte and Sanda, the child who needs Charlotte’s help, behave in such psychologically realistic ways, from a fear of being touched, especially by a guy, difficulty trusting others, and the ability to see the signs of abuse in others that most people would miss. Moreover, Charlotte has developed the uncanny ability to understand some things about her abusers and people like them, which comes in handy when the series of creepy messages begin showing up. Moreover, Charlotte is a strong female character, the very embodiment of a survivor, so her story adds to the growing number of survivor, rather than victim, narratives. Finally, while I had some guesses as to who was leaving the messages, I never guessed anything close to the ultimate outcome, which is desirable in this kind of book.

While the subject matter certainly is dark, as one would expect in a book about a 17-year-old who has lived through neglect and vicious torture at the hands of the Parents, there are some distancing techniques that Charlotte uses to protect herself, which mitigates the emotions that some readers might feel reading it. For example, the instruments of torture and the scars riddling the bodies of Charlotte and Sanda imply much of the torture. Johansson doesn’t force readers, and the characters themselves, to relive the torture moment by moment in either the present or through their memory. This authorial decision means that readers won’t be put in the position of voyeur to most of the harshest scenes. Instead, it is the aftermath of violence, such as the fear in her brother’s eyes, the obvious fear of touch, the lack of trust, and the realization that she didn’t save Sam that haunts Charlotte more than anything else. Personally, I’m glad that she made this decision, but those who were expecting something more like edgy YA novels might not have gotten exactly what they wanted.

If you love nuanced, psychological thrillers and, like me, haven’t had the opportunity to read many great YA ones, then take a chance on Cut Me Free. I’m sure that you haven’t read a book like this before. Don’t miss out.

Buy Cut Me Free today and benefit from 27% off the regular price!

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