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