________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 15 . . . . December 14, 2012


Last Cut. (SideStreets).

Wren Handman.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2012.
143 pp., pbk., hc. & Ebook, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $8.95 (Ebook).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0187-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0188-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0189-1 (Ebook).

Grades 10-12 / Ages 15-17.

Review by Nicole Dalmer.

**½ /4



I get there at 6:37 for a 7 a.m. "call-time," which just means what time you have to be at work. There are a few people there ahead of me, and it looks like they've been here awhile, because they've got tents set up and trailers parked and everything. I stand around for a few minutes, too nervous to approach anyone, but finally I decide that's stupid so I head over to a guy dressed in dirty jeans and a blue button-up shirt.

"Excuse me," I say. "I'm the new actress. Do you know where I'm supposed to go?"

He gives me a raised-eyebrow look, and then jerks his head vaguely in a direction. "Director's over there," he says, and walks away. Okay, not exactly a great first impression, but I'm not gonna get discouraged. I'm still buzzing with excitement.

High school student Caitlin is an aspiring actress, determined to break into the vibrant and bustling film and theatre scene in her hometown of Toronto. When she applies to an online notice for a financed film and is asked to audition, she can't believe her luck that is, until she has to lie about her age to the talent agent in order to get the part. Heather and Suzanne are worried about their best friend, but Caitlin is adamant about acting in the low-budget slasher film, despite having to miss over three weeks of school and be filmed while wearing a bikini. Lying to her friends, her parents and her boyfriend in order to stay in the film, Caitlin finds that the bossy director, the overly slick casting agent and the long hours start to weigh on her. When Caitlin's told that the film is taking a new direction, requiring her to shoot in some revealing and compromising scenes, Caitlin has to decide whether she's willing to come clean to the film crew and to her family and friends.

      Last Cut is a new addition to the Lorimer's "SideStreets" series, novels that are 'edgy and fast-paced', combining believable characters and real-world themes to create suspenseful teen reads to engage reluctant readers. Language and dialogue are the primary means by which Last Cut achieves accessibility for those reluctant readers. With an overall gritty feel to the book, Caitlin, her friends and her boyfriend speak to one another in colloquial terms, integrating slang and references to contemporary artists and social media, drawing the readers into Caitlin's world. While Caitlin's inner monologue is the conduit that provides the depth to the book, allowing readers to understand why Caitlin is so willing to lie to those that care for her, it is the dialogue between the characters that moves the plot forward and provides greater context to Caitlin's actions. Another key manner by which the book maintains its accessibility to its readers is through its concise nature. The book is physically small, reads in less than 150 pages, and its vocabulary generally errs on the side of less complex word choices without being overly simplistic, making Last Cut more approachable for its target audience.

      Despite the adept way in which the author manipulated language to craft an engaging read, I questioned the strong language used by Caitlin and her friends to describe their situations and others, and wondered whether it was truly necessary to include quite a number of profanities. I was also disappointed with the seemingly rushed ending. When Caitlin's problems come to a head, matters are resolved in less than a chapter. The few pages used to conclude the suspenseful situation failed to acknowledge Caitlin's inner monologues that had peppered previous chapters and had been the vehicle to draw readers to the plot and characters.

      Last Cut is a raw and intense read, driven by the high stakes of Caitlin's predicament. Contemporary dialogue and accessible language will engage reluctant readers, bringing them into the authentically confusing world of a determined teenager trying to pursue her dreams.


Nicole Dalmer is a recent graduate of the Master of Library and Information Studies program and is now a Public Service Librarian at the Herbert T. Coutts Education and Physical Education Library at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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