Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review: Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

Title: Scars

Author: Cheryl Rainfield

Pages: 250

Received from: the lovely, awesome author Cheryl (she left a note!)


Kendra, fifteen, hasn't felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse, especially because she still can't remember the most important detail-- her abuser's identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it's her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who's becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra's abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences. Scars is the unforgettable story of one girl's frightening path to the truth.

As you probably know, abuse is a touchy subject, especially in teen fiction. You can't please everyone, and there will always be that group of people up-in-arms about the way you went about it. There is no winning in a situation such as this, because if if you avoid the haters and piss-faces, you still have a book about a horrible, terrible subject on your hands. So it'd be impossible to say Rainfield's YA debut is a success, because it obviously isn't. But I can say, with complete honesty, that she has crafted a touching, affected novel that will leave you thinking of it long after you turned the final page.

After how many years of peaceful ignorance, Kendra has started remembering the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. She knows that if she tells anyone the identity of her abuser, bad shit'll go down, so she cuts up her arm to repress the memories. However, he abuser--we'll call him Anon for conversation's sake--is starting to get a bit nervous, leaving menacing messages for Kendra to happen upon. Herein lies the issue.

On a side note: had I not gotten to the last chapter of this book, I would have written off this plot as completly and totally implausible and just a little ridiculous. But I did happen to get to the last chapter, so it makes a smidge more sense then it would have. So, I won't go into it.

So, I liked Scars. I did. It wasn't a perfect novel, but it had good intentions and got the point across. I kind of found myself comparing it to Speak, in that they both involve a girl who was raped and did the whole "self destructive" thing. I couldn't help but notice the beautiful subtlety in Speak, and the...well, non-subtlety in Scars. From the first page, the reader is literally assaulted with Kendra's frantic and dramatic narrative, her "I was abused, ya'll!!!!" proclaimations never leaving you for a second.

One of the reasons I loved books like Willow and Speak was its ability to creep up on you, playing with your mind to the point where you have no fucking idea whats going on until that one moment where its like, "oh, shit". Not that Scars didn't mess with you, but it was less of a ninja thing and more like a by-the-book-these-are-the-after-effects-of-teh-badness thing. I just kind of thing that less is more, especially with such a delicate subject (I can think of three bloggers off the top of my head who have proclaimed their disdain for the Kiddie Rape genre). I mean, it seemed every time anyone said anything Kendra had to bring up the abuse. Like when her mom asks her if she's going to church, she's all like, "Where was God when I was getting abused?"...outloud. And I'm like, "DUDE, REALLY??!!!". Same situation with her gal-pal Meghan, who's mommy hits her or something. Both of them are way to quick to advertize it to each other--like, three seconds after meeting. I just found it awkward at times, how in your face all these issues were. There's nothing wrong with subtlety.

Aside from that, I found Scars to be a fascinating look into self-harm and the effects of childhood abuse. Despite its flaws, the prose and heroine will keep you interested until the very end.

Rating: 7 out of 10, leaning towards an 8.


Ripley said...

This sounds very "Sketches".

Emma said...

Interesting review. I love the cover of this book.

Anonymous said...

Loved your comparison with the subtler treatment of this subject in Speak and Willow. I haven't read any of these books -- I think I'll start with speak.

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