Fifteen-year-old Kendra has scars all up and down her arms which she hides from everyone in her life. Kendra is a cutter and she mutilates her own body in order to escape the emotional scars that ravage her mind and soul. See, Kendra was sexually abused for years – she actually doesn’t recall when it started and stopped, but she knows that she spent a good part of her life being abused and raped by someone close to her family. The problem is, she doesn’t know who the person was who did this to her. And she knows that she must keep his identity a secret, so she doesn’t allow her mind to go there, doesn’t allow her mind to process the identity of this person. But now that she’s in therapy, her therapist is getting dangerously close to pulling the truth out of her. Not only that, but she’s starting to fall in love, and it won’t be long before her love interest sees her scars and realizes the extent of her pain. As she gets closer to the truth of who her abuser was, she has more and more breakdowns as this person begins stalking her, threatening her, and reminding her of her place. Will she find out who he is? And will the healing powers of her therapist and her new girlfriend help her through the pain?
Scars sort of reminds me of another YA book I read recently about cutting called Willow (my review). The books are quite different, but I would say that if you read and enjoyed Willow you will most likely appreciate Scars as well. And I haven’t seen this book get too much attention, which is unfortunate as it is a really excellent book for teens and young adults.
The best thing about this novel, in my opinion, is the main character, Kendra. She is just such an honest and raw character, I completely believed her. She had been through SUCH a trauma and no one in her life seemed to understand or care about the pain she was in. A few scenes actually made me cry, her pain was so palpable and I felt it right along with her. One part in particular, when she is trying to tell her mom about the abuse (at the age of three or four) and her mom is literally ignoring her… this broke my heart into a million pieces. I cannot describe quite how realistic Kendra is – I felt like I was getting to know a very sad, upset, and literally scarred teenager – and all I wanted to do was help her.
I highly enjoyed the way Kendra’s relationship with Meaghan was portrayed in the book. She was in a relationship with a girl, but Rainfield didn’t make it out to be this big issue that some other books have a tendency to do. There were clearly people in Kendra’s life who took issue with her sexuality, but there was no “hi, I’m a lesbian” moment in the book. It was just Kendra, being herself, being attracted to girls and finally finding the right person who could appreciate her and, ultimately, help her heal.
I must admit that I correctly predicted the identity of Kendra’s abuser, but that didn’t make it any less heart-wrenching when Kendra finally figured it out for herself. If anything, it was the opposite – sort of like realizing that two cars are about to have a huge accident and being completely unable to stop it. You know there’s major destruction about to happen, and not only are you unable to prevent it, but you also can’t tear your eyes away. That was exactly what happened when Kendra remembered the identity of her abuser – complete destruction. But in the end, it was exactly what she needed to do to begin down the road of healing.
I could go on forever about Scars, but I would rather you read it for yourself. This is an extremely powerful novel about one girl’s path to self-destruction and back again. Highly recommended.