By the blurb, readers would’ve become hooked if they loved Warcross or Lost. Finlay created a horrifically thrilling world that tests what’s real and what isn’t. If you’re a typical thriller fan like myself and love elements of sci-fi, romance, and intrigue—it’d take you no time to finish such a book.
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.
Plots like these are becoming very popular in the sci-fi genre, Finlay made an excellent choice to get right into the action! Written in the third person, readers grasp each of the main contestants' backgrounds from past interviews. I admit, I would’ve liked it if we met the other contestants, but these few served justice. The world-building itself had similar features to The Hunger Games as the story continued. That tension throughout the contestants whenever they faced an obstacle felt nostalgic! They’re recorded through cameras called Skyms that follow their every move. Yet the virtual reality comes in for the viewers watching at home, and they can receive the same experience (sounds and sensations) that the contests go through.
The characters are very distinct and the further they’re evaluated the more readers realize why they have been chosen amongst so many who signed up to be on the show. It’s the typical stereotypes of the experienced one, tech one, independent one, etc. Yet I couldn’t quite connect to any of them personally.
We have River who’s the experienced one that lost both parents and is very caring toward others. Cameron who’s closed up at first, yet she changed drastically in the second half of the book. I don’t know if I missed something, but I couldn’t see her character development. As past reviews have said, she suddenly became the major cause and solution. It would’ve worked better if they all were partially important. There’s also Trip, who’s the rich tech dude. Somehow, the friendship he created with River and Cameron was my favorite part. There are other characters I could mention, but they all surround spoilers, so you’d have to read the book to hear about Brandon, Liza, and Jacob.
The romance in this book, like many others mentioned, didn’t capture me. It was cute at times through everything that they went through, but I don’t think it would’ve mattered if it happened or not. An emotion that Finlay represented well was fear. She bases most of their obstacles off of fear and it’s such a state of delirium that they go through, they’re so trapped by fear to even consider what’s real or not. These types of scenes would leave readers sitting back and taking a breather.
Overall, this book was fun to read, and I’d imagine it on the big screen in a few years. It’s written so visually that it’s hard not to picture the entire story in your head. The ending, without giving any spoilers, was kind of melodramatic for me. So much happened in such a short amount of time and the characters went through all that just for a vague time skip and a reunion at the end? However, Finlay nonchalantly leaves an opportunity for a sequel. That’s smart. I’d still read it because, through everything that these characters went through, I don’t believe their story is finished.