Title: The Scar Boys
Author: Len Vlahos
Genre: Contemporary, Music, Coming of Age
Published On: January 21st 2014
Publisher: Egmont USA
Source: Edelweiss - In exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: 5 Stars
"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."
The Scar Boys is about a boy named Harry who is telling his story through an essay for his college application. He wants them to know who he really is, and doesn’t think 250 words is enough to convey himself. His story starts with when he was almost struck by lightning, which resulted in some severe injuries that leave him covered in scars.
Harry’s story is full of woe, with his surgeries and counseling, and the bullies at school who seem to always choose him as a target, up until the point where a confident boy named Johnny takes him under his wing. Harry and Johnny’s friendship forms fast and easily, but as they grow up, their relationship is far from perfect. Johnny helps Harry come out of his shell, but seems to always have him on a leash at the same time.
For a while I couldn’t stand Johnny’s character, but I think it was because of the growing hostility from Harry towards him that tainted my view of him. By the end of the book, my perspective of Johnny was totally different, for the most part.
After Harry’s first heartbreak, Johnny suggests they start a band, and so they do. Johnny gathers the bandmates, and before long their writing songs and practicing in Harry’s parent’s garage. Music becomes his main escape, his passion.
My favorite part of this book was how Harry was constantly learning, whether it was about himself, or other people, he was always trying to move forward. Even though he starts to allow himself to be put down and used, and doesn’t know how to enjoy the good things in his life at first, he’s never a hard character to like.
If you asked me what this story is about, I would say it’s about friendship and growing up and music, and the awful things that can happen in life that can result in the most beautiful things. The Scar Boys isn’t just about one thing.
I really, really enjoyed this book. I cried, I laughed, and I adored how this book made me feel, and it really does make you feel everything Harry feels. I doubt I would have been as invested in this book if the narration wasn’t so compelling. I was hooked and drawn in by the easy voice and writing style that made it feel like Harry was sitting next to me, telling me his story.
If you’ve read The Scar Boys, be sure to check out this article on Len Vlahos blog where he talks about his first draft of The Scar Boys.