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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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The Scar Boys

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The Scar Boys Cover

ISBN13: 9781606844397
ISBN10: 1606844393
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

Burned and scarred, Harry, a teenage punk guitarist, has more to overcome than most. This tender coming-of-age novel, written in the form of a college admissions essay, recounts Harry's traumatic past and the normalcy he finds through music. Wise and heartwarming, Harry's story will stay with you long after the novel ends.
Recommended by Ted, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock 'n' roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world... even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay — help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores — Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry's description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he's looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

Review:

"Harry is used to making people squirm. When others see his badly scarred face, there is an inevitable reaction that ranges from forced kindness to primal cruelty. In this first-person tale written as an extended college entrance essay, Harry has no intention of sparing readers from this discomfort. He recounts the trauma of his young life spent recuperating from the act of childhood bullying that left him a burn victim. In middle school, he meets Johnny McKenna, the first person to seem to offer him genuine friendship. Over the years, Harry finds strength by Johnny's side, following along with his decisions, from the arbitrary to the life-changing, and together, they form a punk-rock band called the Scar Boys. With the band on tour as high school ends, the true dynamic of their friendship, Johnny's less-than-altruistic need for Harry, and Harry's ownership of himself in all his disfigured glory begin to emerge. This leads up to a heartbreaking tragedy that bonds the two boys in understanding. Though the use of the college essay to present the story may seem trite, the unflinching honesty of the narrative and subtle development of the compelling characters make up for the use of this device. Etches its way onto the heart and leaves a mark." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[A] wry, stylish tale...all four Scar Boys are well-etched original characters." The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Harry Jones opens his story by submitting a 250-word essay to a college admissions board — only he goes a book length over the limit. In so doing he recounts his traumatic past: the terrifying scene in which neighborhood bullies tied him to a tree and left him as a storm rolled in...and how the tree was struck by lightning, leaving him with disfiguring burn scars all over his face. He then describes his physical and mental recovery: how he formed a band that toured all over the country...and even kissed a girl. Set in the early 1980s, Vlahos's narrative flows easily and rings true. If Brent Runyon's The Burn Journals (Knopf, 2004) and Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Pocket Books, 1999) could be melded into a single work, it might be this one. Distinguished in every way." School Library Journal

About the Author

Len Vlahos is the Executive Director of BISG, and the former COO of the American Booksellers Association, where he worked for the past 20 years. At the ABA, he had overall responsibility for ABA's Winter Institute. So he knows booksellers and booksellers know him. Len has also worked in indie, chain, and university bookstores, was an on-air personality for a commercial radio station in Atlantic City, and worked for a time for Internet marketing guru Seth Godin. He was in a punk rock band in the mid-1980s. The Woofing Cookies toured and their music was played on dozens of college radio stations coast to coast. You can visit him online at www.lenvlahos.com and on Twitter @LenVlahos.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Debbi, March 10, 2014 (view all comments by Debbi)
The Scar Boys is everything I appreciate about young adult literature. Great characters, catch you and keep you hooked-in story line and it all felt so real. Didn't want to put it down and immediately started thinking about who would be lucky enough to be next in line to read it. High school librarians, buy this book for your collection. Readers who want a good story, pick it up and enjoy. This is a great choice for reluctant readers, boys and girls alike. Finally, a note to the author: you've got the goods, please keep writing.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
Courtesy of Mother Daughter Book Club com, January 31, 2014 (view all comments by Courtesy of Mother Daughter Book Club com)
When Harry was eight years old, he was the victim of a bullying prank that went terribly wrong, leaving his face and body terribly scarred. The scars left him more of an outsider than he already was. When a pretty cool kid named Johnny befriends him, his status rises just a bit. When the two of them decide to start a band, Harry finds that music helps him deal with his emotional pain. As The Scar Boys get better, they take on a girl named Cheyenne as a new bass player. For the first time Harry has hope that he may be seen for the person he is underneath, rather than judged by the scars that show on the surface.

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos is a compelling book that doesn’t flinch when looking at the realities of living life with visible deformities that make you different from everyone else. Harry stands apart because of his scars, but deep down he is just like any teen, and he wants what most teens want: friends, someone who thinks he’s special enough to date, parents who care for him, the ability to eventually make his way in the world.

The healing power of music is also a theme that runs prominently through the book. Each chapter is titled with the name of a song made popular during the years before the story takes place in the 1980s. The song sets the tone for what is to come, and I found myself looking up the words to each as I went along.

Harry tells the story as though he is writing an essay to a college admissions representative, something sure to resonate with teens who are contemplating summing up who they are and why they are special in 1,000 words or less. Harry writes considerably more, and his voice is frank, sometimes filled with despair, sometimes hope, always seeking a way forward.

I highly recommend The Scar Boys for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 14 and up. Issues to discuss include the role friends play in each others lives, finding personal courage in the face of adversity, songs that resonate with different emotions, and more.

The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781606844397
Author:
Vlahos, Len
Publisher:
EgmontUSA
Subject:
Situations / Adolescence
Subject:
Children s Young Adult-Social Issue Fiction
Publication Date:
20140121
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 9
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Age Level:
from 14

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Related Subjects

Children's » Health » Diseases
Children's » Performing Arts » Music
Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Staff Favorites
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » Adolescence
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » Friendship
Young Adult » General
Young Adult » New Arrivals

The Scar Boys Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$12.50 In Stock
Product details 256 pages EgmontUSA - English 9781606844397 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Burned and scarred, Harry, a teenage punk guitarist, has more to overcome than most. This tender coming-of-age novel, written in the form of a college admissions essay, recounts Harry's traumatic past and the normalcy he finds through music. Wise and heartwarming, Harry's story will stay with you long after the novel ends.

"Review" by , "Harry is used to making people squirm. When others see his badly scarred face, there is an inevitable reaction that ranges from forced kindness to primal cruelty. In this first-person tale written as an extended college entrance essay, Harry has no intention of sparing readers from this discomfort. He recounts the trauma of his young life spent recuperating from the act of childhood bullying that left him a burn victim. In middle school, he meets Johnny McKenna, the first person to seem to offer him genuine friendship. Over the years, Harry finds strength by Johnny's side, following along with his decisions, from the arbitrary to the life-changing, and together, they form a punk-rock band called the Scar Boys. With the band on tour as high school ends, the true dynamic of their friendship, Johnny's less-than-altruistic need for Harry, and Harry's ownership of himself in all his disfigured glory begin to emerge. This leads up to a heartbreaking tragedy that bonds the two boys in understanding. Though the use of the college essay to present the story may seem trite, the unflinching honesty of the narrative and subtle development of the compelling characters make up for the use of this device. Etches its way onto the heart and leaves a mark."
"Review" by , "[A] wry, stylish tale...all four Scar Boys are well-etched original characters."
"Review" by , "Harry Jones opens his story by submitting a 250-word essay to a college admissions board — only he goes a book length over the limit. In so doing he recounts his traumatic past: the terrifying scene in which neighborhood bullies tied him to a tree and left him as a storm rolled in...and how the tree was struck by lightning, leaving him with disfiguring burn scars all over his face. He then describes his physical and mental recovery: how he formed a band that toured all over the country...and even kissed a girl. Set in the early 1980s, Vlahos's narrative flows easily and rings true. If Brent Runyon's The Burn Journals (Knopf, 2004) and Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Pocket Books, 1999) could be melded into a single work, it might be this one. Distinguished in every way."
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