July 09, 2012

Monday Review: SCARS by Cheryl Rainfield

Reader Gut Reaction: Scars, by longtime fellow blogger Cheryl Rainfield, is a book I've been meaning to read for a while. I don't normally gravitate toward problem novels or issue books, but as I found out by reading it, this is much more than just a book about cutting, or about abuse and recovery; it's also a gripping, even scary, thriller in which the mystery unfolding inside the protagonist is echoed by the ramping up of tension and increasing very real danger in Kendra's outside world. There's also just a hint of romance, as Kendra opens up to a friend at school and, even then, battles against her fears and her lack of self-confidence.

When we're introduced to Kendra, at the beginning of the story, she is in one of her few safe zones: the office of her therapist, Carolyn. We quickly find out that Kendra's situation is intense and unsettling. She was sexually abused by someone when she was younger, but she can't remember the man's face. All she can remember is that he said he’d kill her if she told. We also find out that the only way she gets relief from her fear and anxiety is by cutting herself, but she hasn't told anyone about that. Not yet. Ultimately, she must find the courage within herself to remember, and to break the silence—about a lot of things—in order to heal. Of course, breaking that silence is a risk, because...she's sure that her abuser is following her, trying to intimidate her into never telling.

Concerning Character: The characters in this book are quickly sketched at the beginning, putting more focus on the tension and action, but through Kendra's viewpoint we are rapidly introduced to her terrifying situation and the primary players. Kendra herself is a bit of a loner, inward-focused, but brought out of herself by her soon-to-be friend and love interest, Meghan. Kendra is drawn in sympathetic fashion, and her pain and fear has an immediacy that drives the story along. Her parents could have been fleshed out a little more, but at the same time, it makes sense for the plot that the focus remain on Kendra herself.

Meghan, her new friend, is outgoing, mouthy, and sort of known as the school ho, willing to sleep with any guy, but she's hiding her own secrets; she's not just a good complement to Meghan, but a pillar of strength and just the type of person to lend that strength and courage to Kendra when she needs it most. Carolyn is a truly caring therapist who reminded me strongly of those therapists who have provided me with invaluable support over the years—a critical and positive image to convey to teen and adult readers alike. And in Kendra's friend Sandy, we see not only a lifesaving father figure (who happens to be gay, and this is portrayed in a positive but also non-intrusive way) but also someone who is truly a good soul and a real friend to Kendra and her mother. By the end of the book, I wanted to be friends with Sandy.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Intense, no-holds-barred issue novels that do not talk down to teens but rather reassure them that they are not alone (and are also critical for caregivers aching to understand), especially those novels with a strong suspenseful component: Split by Swati Avasthi (reviewed here), Leftovers by Laura Wiess (reviewed here), and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (reviewed here), to name just a few recent examples. Of course, there will also be comparisons with Cut by Patricia McCormick.

Themes & Things: As I mentioned above, this is a book that deals with disturbing, sometimes graphic, but unavoidably real issues of abuse, of cutting, of recovery. However, it's also a novel of love, relationships, and forgiveness; of the true meaning of family and how we can and should create our own family by gathering around us those we love. There is also a small dose of romance, as Kendra gets to know Meghan and realizes that she can, in fact, learn to trust again and let go enough to be herself—and comes to know that there are those who do love her for who she is and want her to be happy and healthy.

Review Copy Source: I rather fortuitously found this one as a free Kindle download one day.

Authorial Asides: Don't miss Cheryl Rainfield's wonderful blog, where she posts about writing, book reviews, and various worthy causes. Her book came from a place that is deeply personal, and you can find out more about that, too, and get help for yourself or loved ones who are suffering.

You can find Scars by Cheryl Rainfield at an independent bookstore near you!

1 comment:

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