Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review: The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

The Scar Boys
The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

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.


Publishes in US: January 21st 2014 by Egmont USA
Genre: YA contemp
Source: Egmont via Netgalley
Series? No.

Buy it:  Amazon Barnes & Noble IndieBound Book Depository

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    I decided to read this one because it was available on Netgalley and it had my attention at severely burned teenager. I am a sucker for things like that, so I don't think I even bothered to read more than that. 
     But my journey with Harry, the main character ended up being so much more than that. Sure, he is scarred, his face and neck, and yes, he has to deal with a lot of bullying and pain. Also, there is the medical aspect of it which I eat up as well. But I got to see Harry evolve into loving who he is, no matter what he looks like on the outside, I got to see him form friendships with those who see past the deformity and to who he is. I got to see the unfailing support from his mother, and the difficulties his dad had with him, but that at the end of the day, he was there for him in the ways his dad was able. I got to watch Harry fall in love with music, and find his outlet and way to shine. I saw him learn to trust others, and the unbalaced, imperfect but true friendship with Johnny. 
     At first, I had an issue with the essay format, but it quickly evolved into more of a narrative, and I was only slightly reminded when he addressed the nameless administrative, and yes, that gives you an idea of his voice and humor, which brought lighter moments when things got too serious. 
    The events of the book are well paced, and there is either something going on with the band, interpersonal connection and friendship, or Harry's introspective journey to figuring out who he is below the scars, and accepting who he is fully, which means scars, music, humor, friendships, family and all. 
    This is a no holds barred book though, it gets pretty gritty with his medical history, and his thoughts. It isn't all uplifting and positive messages, its sad, hard, and sometimes Harry is downright angry or making stupid decisions, but wouldn't you face that with a realistic teenager anyways? 
    Also, his friendship with Johnny. Though I adored Johnny for taking Harry under his wing, and seeing past his scars, there are issues. Johnny is pretty controlling and manipulative, and Harry goes along with it all too often. I really appreciated when Harry finally stood up for himself, and am glad the friendship survived that, or it would have been too sad. But I think that this happens all too often in the real world and no one talks about it, so I am glad to see it explored. 
     The ending is good, and I like the message, and how Harry comes to accept that his life will be hard, but it is worth it. Life is worth it, and music can heal and build bridges, but so can family and friends. 

Bottom Line: Gritty and emotional contemporary about love of music, and learning to accept yourself from a scarred teenage boy.

My question to you, my lovely readers:
Do you have any scars?
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  1. I'm glad there was some humor to soften this story just a bit because it otherwise sounds very emotionally demanding.
    Lovely review!

  2. This sounds very intense and I'm glad it was done well. I'm very interested, and a bit nervous, about books w/burn victims, since we dealt w/this for my mother in law, but still, I want to check it out.

    1. Oh, sorry to hear about that, it might touch a nerve or be too personal

  3. This sounds like a heartbreaking yet heartwarming read. Great review!

  4. I ended up loving The Scar Boys, too! "had an issue with the essay format" yep, but after a while I completely forgot about it (Harry 'reminded' me from time to time that what I'm reading is essentially a college application essay, but it was never bothersome)
    "music can heal and build bridges" *nods* Great review!

  5. I don't know how you can read all this emotionally charged books, I get depressed. This sounds like it has some beautiful messages and I should check it out.

    1. i just really connect with it. It makes me feel less alone since I suffer with depression/anxiety on a daily basis.

  6. I'm normally not a fan of essay formats, but it sounds like it worked well here. I'm so happy to see this review because I've been on the fence about reading this and haven't seen any reviews of it yet, and now I'm confident I would enjoy it. Lovely review!

  7. Despite the formatting it sounds like it worked once you settled in. This is new to me, and different so I appreciate you sharing it!

  8. Eh, I do not know about this one

  9. I really want to read this. I like novels that have a different format. I used to love diary books when I was young.

  10. I so enjoy a good gritty, and emotionally daring book! This one sounds like it was good, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Great review! :D

  11. This sounds really gritty, but I'm glad that Harry did learn a lot out of his journey. Not sure if this may be my type of read but like Maja, it's good to know that there was some humor to soften the story. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I like emotional and gritty! This one sounds really intense! I will keep an eye out for it!

  13. This sounds like a pretty good read and I like books like this. I've not heard of it before, so I'll be adding it to my tbr :) Great review!

    Janina @ Synchronized Reading

  14. It sounds like an emotional but uplifting story, and I'm so happy Harry had people see past his scars. Poor guy! Great review, Brandi! :)

  15. This sounds amazing, Brandi. I so enjoy reading about emotional journeys - finding one's self. Thanks for introducing me to Harry's storyl

  16. I don't know how you always find book with music in it, it's really never the case for me!


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