Fero isn’t a spy.
But he looks exactly like someone who is.
When the police realise they have arrested the wrong boy, they decide that this is an opportunity. They can send Fero across the border, disguised as his doppelgänger. He can hunt down a missing agent and bring her home in time to prevent a devastating terror attack.
Hastily trained, loaded up with gadgets and smuggled into hostile territory, Fero is about to discover the truth about espionage:
Getting in is easy. Getting out alive is hard.
The Cut Out is an award-shortlisted novel with complex themes of inherited responsibility, state-sponsored terrorism, xenophobia, conscription and loyalty. Get detailed teaching notes here.
Q&A with the author:
Where is The Cut Out set?
Kamau and Besmar, two nations in Eastern Europe which share a violent past (and a land-mined border).
Who is the hero?
Fero Dremovich, a quiet, athletic 14-year old Kamauan boy. He bears an eerie resemblance to Troy Maschenov, a Besmari spy.
What kicks things off?
Fero gets mistaken for Troy and arrested. Meanwhile, Besmari terrorists hole up in an abandoned hospital with a weaponised virus and enough explosives to distribute it over a city.
A Kamauan agent, Dessa Cormanenko, knows a secret way into the hospital. But she’s trapped in Besmar. So Fero – who has finally convinced the authorities that they’ve arrested the wrong kid – is sent across the border with 48 hours to find her, disguised as Troy.
Isn’t that a ridiculously difficult mission for a teenage boy with no spy training?
You don’t know the half of it.
Who or what inspired you to write The Cut Out?
Robert Ludlum and Waleed Aly. (Hear me out.) I’ve always loved spy thrillers – the gadgets, the secret identities, the high-speed chases. But I’m also fascinated by the way governments encourage their citizens – and vice versa – to dehumanise people from other cultures. While the line between good and evil seems clear at first, it’s not spoiling too much to reveal that Kamau and Besmar are not as different as they appear.
Who will enjoy it?
Anyone who likes a fast, frantic spy books with lots of twists. Content-wise, I think it’s okay for anyone over the age of ten. (Lots of explosions, but no coarse language or adult themes.)
Is it true you wrote the book in a month?
I wrote the first draft in November 2012 as part of NaNoWriMo. But it took two years of editing to perfect it with the help of author Sam McGregor (Darkness Girl), author Justine Larbalestier (Razorhurst), the team at Allen & Unwin and many others.
Is it part of a series?
Book two, The Fail Safe, will be released in 2016. I can’t tell you much about that without spoiling several of the big reveals in The Cut Out.
Where is The Cut Out available?
At all good bookstores in Australia and New Zealand! My readers in North America and the UK can only get it online, for now. But if it’s a hit – and early reviews have been fantastic – US/UK publishers may buy the rights to publish it domestically. Fingers crossed.
I’ve read it and I love it! How do I help other people discover it?
If you have reviewed it, send me a link! I’d love to quote you.