Review: Cut Me Free by J. R. Johansson

Review: Cut Me Free by J. R. JohanssonCut Me Free by J. R. Johansson
Published by Straus and Giroux (BYR) Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Genres: Dark, Suspense, Thriller
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Seventeen-year-old Charlotte barely escaped from her abusive parents. Her little brother, Sam, wasn't as lucky. Now she's trying to begin the new life she always dreamed of for them, but never thought she'd have to experience alone. She's hired a techie-genius with a knack for forgery to remove the last ties to her old life. But while she can erase her former identity, she can’t rid herself of the memories. And her troubled history won’t let her ignore the little girl she sees one day in the park. The girl with the bruises and burn marks.

That’s when Charlotte begins to receive the messages. Threatening notes left in her apartment--without a trace of entry. And they’re addressed to Piper, her old name. As the messages grow in frequency, she doesn’t just need to uncover who is leaving them; she needs to stop whoever it is before anyone else she loves ends up dead.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.


J.R. Johansson crafted Cut Me Free to give us an emotion-riddled picture of human-trafficking and abuse, and the aftermath that is suffered by those directly and indirectly involved.


When we meet Piper she is in deep reflection of a person and an agonizing time-gone-by.  Desperately trying to focus on her freedom in the here-and-now, she is awaiting the arrival of someone who is important in solidifying the next step of her journey.  As her visitor arrives we become aware that she is somewhat undone by his age and possible inexperience in giving her what is necessary to finally be released from her past.  However, after some time to consider, Piper decides that he is the best option for helping her build a new future. She is drawn to this stranger, but mere human contact brings too many anxiety-ridden and painful memories.


He is the one Piper couldn’t save. This aching reminder is with her daily, so much so that she hears his voice at times, which brings her both comfort and allows for torturous memories to resurface. He was her brother and security.


He’s not exactly above-board with his choice of profession in life. But, he takes a true interest in helping Piper/Charlotte.   He sees through the walls that she has built to keep others out, and wants to be the one to bring those walls down.

Charlotte has now embarked on her new life. New identity and apartment, fresh possibilities for an education and career.  She was deprived her entire childhood, but is looking forward to a fulfilling future.  So many things are holding her to the past…her fears, hurts, insecurities, Sam, and an unnamed child that she repeatedly sees who she knows is being abused.


She is in a living nightmare. Young, no way out, and nowhere to go.  We watch with Charlotte as Sanda is dragged from place to place with cuts, bruises, and burns marring her body.  We experience the horrifying memories that Charlotte recalls as she witnesses this unfortunate familiarity.

Observing this, Charlotte makes another life-changing decision. Knowing that she would save Sanda at the risk of losing her own newly-found escape, she errs on the side of humanity, and a new relationship is forged, but at what cost?  We have the chance to follow both girls as they learn everything they never knew about life, from the very simple to the complex. Even in doing what would be normal to others, they are re-exposed to painful memories and difficulties. Some sunlight starts to break through the darkness for our girls, but just when the walls start coming down, an alarming storm of events take place that threaten to extinguish their hope.

I must be honest when I say that I am a huge fan of happy, make-my-heart-fill-with-warm-fuzzies reads. I knew when I requested Cut Me Free that it would not likely be filled with these type of moments. However, for those who love a mind-numbing, chilling story, I highly recommend this book. I also recommend it to those who hope against hope that good always conquers evil, and to those who yearn to see love blossom from tragedy.  The author had me hanging on every word. I feel like I experienced the highs and lows of the story with the characters, but was able to do so from a safe distance. And then just when I though it could not get more twisted….I was wrong!!!

I found myself in total shock without adequate words. There were confessions that toppled my heart out of my chest, and made it overwhelming for me to read the the final pages.  I was numb!  The saddest thought I had in finishing this story was that there are people everywhere, in all walks of life, that have been unfairly placed in this type of scenario. My heart breaks for the “real-life” characters that are caught in this reality. I appreciate that the author brought this to the forefront in her acknowledgements, and hope that it will help give voice to those victims who have none.

4.5 Stars

More from J. R. Johansson

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