The Cutting Room Floor is a weird book. It swings between so many ideas and plot avenues that it seems to possess a bit of an identity crisis. This is a book that can't decide if it wants to be a murder mystery, a romance, or an "Issue" novel. In just over 330 pages, The Cutting Room Floor repeatedly flits between the murder "mystery", the "romance", and Riley's struggle with her sexuality; it's always trying to tackle each angle and in doing so, fails to create any kind of real or lasting impression. To sum it up as succinctly as possible, this book was an interesting premise, met with lackluster execution.
If the author had picked just one, or maybe even two, themes to go with, The Cutting Room Floor would have been much better off. Nothing - from characters to plot to the multiple themes - is really developed. None of the plotlines get the focus or attention needed to create a reasonable plot structure. The characters are tropes, or one dimensional or impossible to care about. The only interesting character is Dez, and that's because he rapidly emerges as a controlling, manipulative, creepy jerk. The main attribute used for Riley is how much she lets her sexuality define her throughout the novel. While the murder of her favorite teacher is supposedly the focus of the plot, much more of Riley's inner moologue is devoted to examining who she wants to date, or what gender she is attracted to. Which would be fine, and good, but then why is there a murder mystery involved in the first place? Why ignore it to watch Riley wrestle with her impulses? It all feels too thrown together, too all over the place and The Cutting Room Floor needs some serious editing.
A book about a confused high school girl wrestling with being homosexual, or even bisexual, would have been welcomed. A straightforward murder mystery about a beloved but aloof teacher would have been interesting. A YA romance about two best friends who become more than that through adversity/working together closely/etc/ would have been done before, but had possibility. Klehr, in trying to throw all of them together, detracts from everything that might have recommended her novel. Her characters suffer from lack of dimension, her plot(s) are all over the place, the writing is passable, and the few bright spots are lost in the overwhelming amount of superfluous angles. The murder mystery is abandoned for 80% of the book after it is introduced. How it is concluded, and how it coincides with the plot about Riley's love life is both just too convenient and too little too late.
This is a frustrating read, but it's not the most horrible thing I've read. It's not completely boring, and nor is it reminiscent of anything else I've come across. There is some originality - the narrative-as-script for example - work really well within the frame of the story. There is potential here, but there's too much being juggled for any real involvement on the part of the audience. It falls flat, there are some pretty large plotholes, and the characters are a wash. But for all that, a little more restraint, a little more editing, and there would've been more to enjoy about The Cutting Room Floor. I am just disappointed, and think that readers searching for a genuine whodunit or a psychological thriller will find themselves disappointed as well.