Thursday, March 11, 2010

Book Review: Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

SUMMARY (From amazon):

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.


This is a powerful, potent book that will leave you feeling twisted and flayed because this book not only dives into the horrific world of child sexual abuse, it throws in cutting. Each facet stands out, shining as brightly as its counterpart without either overtaking the other. There are books I could compare this to because they have similar subject matter- books that deal with sexual abuse and ones for cutting but rarely any that combine the two. That, alone, makes this book thrust itself forward. Even more notably is the somewhat autobiographical nature of it and knowing that, this book surged into me even more deeply because although it is fiction, there is obvious proof at least parts of this are based on a dark reality. Books like this can often blur the fiction/nonfiction line and this one toes it expertly, pulling the reader in and making them feel every bit of pain Kendra did- pain the author felt at one point.

For Kendra, cutting is her way of forgetting and dealing with the memories of being sexually abused as a child- her way of not remembering the face of the person who did it because that could be worse than remembering in the first place. Kendra can't say when the abuse started or when it stopped, she can't say what person did it to her- someone her family had to know given she was a young child, but she can say that it happened, she remembers parts, and it was horrific. She isn't cutting to kill herself- she's cutting because she has no other way of letting out the intense pain she feels. Rainfield does an exceptional job making this distinction and luring the reader into an understanding that while cutting is a tabooed outlet, it's an outlet for a reason. While it isn't necessarily okay, it's needed- and this book stresses that.

Also making this book stand out is how much it touches on homophobia. With not only a main character that seems to be drawn more to girls than boys- one girl in particular named Meghan- but also a strong adult male character who's gay and has a partner, this book pushes the boundaries and stresses acceptance. Acceptance of those lesbians and gays, acceptance of cutters, and acceptance of those who have suffered something so traumatic they don't know how to deal and need things to happen their way for awhile. Explanation and justification without promotion.

The plot, while initially simplistic based on the summary, is filled with twists, turns and shocking moments. Yes, the person who abused Kendra is identified and there's a point where it becomes obvious who it is- but that is about the same time Kendra starts to remember. Before that, she naturally questions any man who's been in her life long enough, taking the reader right along for the ride. While Kendra is cutting and trying to hide it, and fighting to remember, she has to deal with her parents who are as stunned as she is about the abuse. Typical teenage battles become wars almost because of the dark cloud hanging over this family, all at the hands of an unknown assailant that tormented their little girl.

Rainfield does a magnificent job building all her characters, from Kendra to her parents to Meghan and Kendra's much needed and very trusted therapist Carolyn. Each of these characters becomes a full person, realistic in the mind of the reader and made stronger by the very raw way in which Rainfield pitches Kendra, her thoughts, and her story.

I read this one straight through in one evening, gripped and pulled in from the very first page. Rainfield has done something wonderful with this novel despite the very dark, harsh topic. I highly, highly recommend it even if parts are rough to read. It will stick with you, it will make you rethink some things, and it will keep the notion that sexual abuse can happen to anyone, at any time in your mind.

Source: ARC received from author/publisher for review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 250 pages
Publisher: Westside Books; First edition (March 24, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193481332X
ISBN-13: 978-1934813324

Author's Website


  1. Wow! This book really tackles a lot of issues. I recently read Willow, which deals with cutting, and I loved the story. I do have a hard time reading about childhood sexual abuse, though. You've convinced me to give it a try, though, and I'll be adding it to my wish list. What a wonderful review!

  2. This sounds right up my alley. I 'oooh'ed over it while reading the summary. I can't wait to read this! Thanks for posting about it because I never would have heard of it otherwise.

  3. This book sounds so good...very dark and deep, but excellent. Great review, and thank you for pointing it out for me :)

  4. What an amazing review, it was long and intriguing without giving to much, great job. I haven't heard of this one so look forward to the release.

  5. This books sounds scary and amazing! Its the first time I hear of it and I'll have to check it out. Great review :)

  6. Whoa! It sounds very powerful and emotional. I would like to read it simply because it tackles such dark issues. Thanks for the review. :-)

  7. What an amazing review. . . it literally has me breathing heavy. I can't imagine how hard it would be to read the book. But it kind of sounds like one of those important must reads.

  8. Amazing review. It sounds very powerful and intense. Hm maybe I'll buy it, still on the fence :)

  9. This looks like a very great read. I really look forward to reading it. Thanks for the review!

  10. This book is all hands down AMAZING! I read it in school, trust me, you'll love it!