Monday, March 15, 2010


Rainfield, Cheryl. Scars. Lodi, NJ: WestSide Books, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

Kendra is full of secrets. She let one big one out six months ago, when she started to remember and told her parents about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. Now she's struggling to keep the rest of her secrets in: she wishes her therapist, her art teacher, almost anyone else, was her real mother; she's been cutting herself to deal with the pain that remembering the abuse has brought on; she has a crush on the toughest girl at school, who also sleeps with boys like it's her job; and the biggest secret of all, one she can't even tell herself, somewhere deep down in her memory, she knows who raped her and she knows that he'll kill her if she tells.

This book is wonderful and powerful. It is a book I read in a day and then took two days to digest. I highly recommend it. That said, this is a book about prolonged sexual abuse and self-injury, in addition to being a book about a girl whose mother is not happy about her daughter's new girlfriend. It is not for everyone, but it will undoubtedly be really important for more than a few someones.

Throughout the course of the book, the bulk of which spans what feels like only a week, Kendra relives her abuse, through flashbacks that hit her out of (almost) nowhere and with her therapist, as she tries to remember the identity of her abuser. She also cuts herself, repeatedly, to cope with the pain and the panic that these memories bring on. Rainfield portrays all of this realistically and sensitively. She lets us inside Kendra's head to see her pain, shame, insecurities, fear and more. More importantly, she shows how much Kendra appreciates and depends on those who support her, even if Kendra doesn't always show it herself. It is Kendra's chosen family, her therapist, her art teacher, her mentor, and her girlfriend, that make it possible for her to face her abuse and ultimately her abuser.

There were some moments in the book when the dialog seemed less than authentic. Using Carolyn, Kendra's therapist, Rainfield can realistically work phrases like "you're not the one who deserves to be hurt, Kendra. He is," into a conversation about Kendra's self-injury. Instead when Meghan, Kendra's girlfriend of a day, says it, it can be a bit jarring (139)*. However, it is the right things to say and important for readers to, well, read. While the few exchanges like this between Kendra and Meghan pulled me momentarily out of the story, they are easily outweighed by the cute wow-you're-pretty moments that these two more often share. Their budding relationship adds the happiness that Kendra so desperately needs and the normalcy that the average reader will need in order to relate to all the Kendra is going through.

Cheryl Rainfield has also included an annotated bibliography of web resources, help lines and crisis support, books, articles, and videos for victims of sexual and ritual abuse, those who self-harm, teens thinking about suicide, and teens in the process of coming out or dealing with homophobia. She also highlights resources specifically for friends, family, and other vital supporters of people dealing with these issues.

To read more about Scars, including a statement from the author and blurbs from some very well-known authors, check out the Cheryl Rainfield's website. Scars will be out and available to purchase March 24th.

Book source: Review copy from publisher.

*All quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof. Exact wording and page numbers may not match the final copy.


Miss Remmers said...

This looks like a fantastic read! Great review!

belleviewnewspaper said...

I'm so glad to hear you also loved the book - thanks for the great review. SCARS is definitely a must-read!