14 January 2011

Book 4: Scars

Title: Scars
Author: Cheryl Rainfield
Publisher/Year: Westside Books / 2010
Date Finished: 9 January 2011
Source/Format: Library / Print

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: GLBT(Q) Challenge,

The Short and Sweet of It
Reading about a young girl cutting to release the pain of past sexual abuse is not easy. But Rainfield manages to balance the horror of the situation with some excellent storytelling, making this a good read.

A Bit of a Ramble
Kendra's life is being threatened by the man who raped her when she was a child, a man she cannot remember but can still feel. She cuts to release the pain that is inside her; it is her secret, her control. Kendra both wants to know who hurt her and wants to keep her abuser's identity hidden. But with a therapist she trusts and a girl she loves helping her, Kendra is starting to remember.

I quite rarely use the word 'raw' to describe characters. I think it is overused and as such is starting to lose some meaning. But I do think the word applies in this case. Kendra is 'raw' in many ways. She has been emotionally and physically scrubbed down to her bare self, and this is revealed both through the details of the story and through the honest and upfront writing style.

Kendra's sort of self-honesty is replicated in the lack of preachiness regarding her sexuality. As Heather at Book Addiction says: "There were clearly people in Kendra’s life who took issue with her sexuality...but 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." The normalization of homosexuality is something I really look for in GLBTQ books. I want to read about GLBTQ characters without the book being The Author's Stance or a soapbox or some other platform.

I had two problems with the book. One big problem I had with the book was the ending. Well hello drama. Amy from Amy Reads had the same thoughts I did: "From the moment when she figures out who her rapist was it I felt it became too melodramatic and this, for me, detracted from the seriousness of the rest of the book." There was something just a little too much about how everything wrapped up.

My other problem is more about me. I have a cutting bias. I just don't get it. I feel bad because I don't get it. But I don't, and there you have it. This book did make me rethink my bias against cutting; it was handled well in that the reasons for it were explained in a way that makes the reader sympathize, but it wasn't elevated to an acceptable activity, and the dangers were clearly stated. 

All that being said, this is a book I really enjoyed and I am glad I read it. So if you haven't had a chance to read it yet, find yourself a copy.

Disclosure: Scars made the short list for the Indie Lit Awards: GLBTQ and I am a panelist for that category. This review in no way reflects which of the shortlisted books will get my vote for best of 2010.


  1. I'm not sure how I feel about this book. The photo on the cover is unnecessary, and the appeal of this book seems to be self-harm. It's something that makes me squirm a little - almost like glamorising a difficulty that many people have to deal with. Whether it's a good story or not, I've made the decision not to read this book on that basis.

  2. I have a very good friend who suffered from years of sexual abuse, and she too turned to cutting (and other methods of escape). I think this one would hit too close to home for me...

  3. There is a girl in my daughter's class (12 and 13 year olds mind you) that cuts herself. She shows it off to everyone. Which makes me crazy. Has she been abused, or is she attempting to appear emo and get attention? So I don't get it either, but I appreciate that it is a sign of someone in mental pain. I'm not sure how I would like this book, but I'm pleased that the issues are being addressed in literature these days.

  4. One of my 2011 reading goals is to read more GLBTQ lit, so I'm glad you've brought this one to my attention. I like what you've said about Scars being more about the character than "The Author's Stance."

  5. I also have a bit of a problem with the cover of this book. Is it really necessary to show this one the cover? I am also one who doesn't understand cutting, and though I have tried to wrap myself around it, it really disturbs and bothers me in a way that is heightened because there seems to be no way for me to understand it. I feel very sorry for people who do this, but it's also frustrating, you know? I am not sure I would read this book based on how I feel about the subject, and I would be hesitant to recommend it to teens because I am not sure if it would glorify cutting to them.

  6. This one sounds like a really powerful read, thanks for bringing to my attention.

  7. One of the problems associated with teenagers who cut is the lack of understanding of the problem...and there certainly are teens who use it as an attention getter which doesn't help the whole misunderstanding thing(although, if you think about it, a willingness to cause self-harm in order to get attention is a problem all its own).
    My oldest daughter (17)is diagnosed OCD...a perfectionist type of OCD...34 ACT, never made a B, #1 in everything she does, etc. kind of OCD. She cut herself the first time when she was in the 8th grade, but we didn't find out until she was in the 10th grade. Her cuts were never where they could be seen. We immediately got her in therapy, and she is doing much better...using cognitive behavior therapy to learn how to keep her brain on the ground so to speak rather than making her feel like she's going crazy.
    Teens who cut do so in order to relieve some kind of mental pain that they can't deal with...physical pain distracts the brain from the weird abstract of psychological pain. In my daughter's situation the psychological issues that she deals with are her own illogical and unrealistic expectations of herself.
    I don't want to sound like I completely understand this disorder bc I only understand what we've learned through our weekly therapy sessions...and I do understand that it affects different people in different ways for different reasons; I only know what we've learned in the quest to help our daughter's specific situation.
    I won't be reading this book though...I will say a little prayer and thank God that I have a gifted child with high expectations rather than this poor child who was so horrificly treated.
    This one hits way to close to home for me.

  8. AAAAAAAhhhh...I can't look at the cover. It looks so disturbing.

    Sounds like a worthwhile book ... too bad it got a little melodramatic at the end.

  9. I'm glad I wasn't the only one that had issues with the drama level escalation. Sigh.

  10. I've been wanting to read this book. I keep going back on forth on the cover. It certainly stops ya!

    Also want to say this: Peppermint Ph.D's line: "physical pain distracts the brain from the weird abstract of psychological pain" is brilliant. Really sums it up though I have no personal experience of it.

    Love this blog and the thoughtful comments folks leave!

  11. I have not read a book on Cutting but I would like to. In my position at work we went to a seminar on teenagers cutting.... before that I never really understood.

  12. It's interesting that so many people object to the cover. I see no problem with it given the content of the book. It's not as if it's gratuitous.


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