If you haven’t heard of Scars, you need to read the summary below because it’s an intense ride through Kendra’s traumatic and painful path to finding some even ground to stand on.
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.
Thanks to Teen Book Scene, I was able to interview the author of Scars, Cheryl Rainfield recently about this book and the recent YA controversy WSJ triggered.
1. Where did you come up with the idea for Scars?
I drew on a lot of my own life experience and pain for Scars. Like Kendra, I’m a sexual abuse survivor, I used self-harm to cope, and I’m queer. And like Kendra, I’ve been lucky to have a really good therapist, I use art (and writing) to heal, and I have some good friends I can rely on. So few people seem to talk about self-harm in a compassionate, understanding way, and I wanted to help increase the compassion for people who’ve been through these things, and to help people who’d been through self-harm, sexual abuse, or being queer to know they’re not alone.
2. How did you go from writing some an intense contemporary book to fantasy? Was it much of a stretch?
No, it wasn’t a stretch for me at all. I needed both fantasy and realistic fiction to help me survive the abuse and torture of my childhood. I love reading both, and I also love writing both. My fantasy HUNTED still has bits of my abuse and torture experience woven into it, and a lot of the fear and tension and hope and healing that I put into Scars.
3. Do you have anything you’re working on right now that you can talk about?
I recently finished another edgy YA novel about a girl who’s abducted and has to face her abuser to escape. And I’m working on a sequel to Hunted, as well as some other manuscripts.
4. Is that really your arm on the cover of Scars?
Yes, that’s really my arm. I cut to cope with the abuse and torture, and sometimes I cut to keep from killing myself. There were times that it felt hard to get through without cutting. My left leg is also scarred. It is a part of my history and a part of my survival.
5. Have you found a lot of support for your book after that article about YA from WSJ came out? (Link to WSJ article)
Yes. The support on Twitter, especially, and also via email was incredible. For me it became a healing experience—having something that seemed so negative become positive with the outpouring of support and encouragement of Scars and of me. I also continue to receive letters from readers who loved Scars and found it helped them; I get 3-7 letters a week, sometimes more now, from people telling me Scars helped them stop cutting, talk to someone about their experiences and get help, and keep from killing themselves. I also get letters from people who hadn’t had those experiences and couldn’t understand self-ham but now get it. It’s wonderful!
Thanks Cheryl for answering my questions! Here’s what I thought of Scars: (I tried to be as non-spoilery as possible)
As I said at the beginning of this post, this book is an intense ride. There were times I was literally holding my breath because of the suspense or anguish I felt for Kendra. My notes are full of questions, mostly asking how Kendra can stand having snippets of memories about her abuse and not knowing the identity of the abuser. (Honestly, HOW can she stand it? I get this ache in the middle of my chest just thinking about it and it didn’t even happen to me.) If it were me, I would be a mess. Curled up in a fetal ball, never coming out of the world I’d pretend into existence in my head.
The fact that Kendra isn’t like that, but alive and working through her past and current trauma makes her a thousand times stronger than me.
Throughout the book there were several times I was in disbelief over the sheer amount of hell Kendra lived through. Could so much bad stuff happen to one person? But if you watch the news at all, the answer to that question is ‘yes’. I hate that it is. I hate that this happens to people. I hate that this has happened to people. I could go on a rant about this, and how guilty I feel for having a good and safe life so far in light of all this, but that would take away from the issue, which is the book. And how much people should read it.
I’m not kidding. You should read this book. The sheer magnitude of anguish and pain should not scare you away from the tragic truth that what happened to Kendra has and will happen to other people. It makes me both angry and sad at the thought. And of course I teared up at the end of the book. How could I not?
At the very end of the book, there are pages of links to places that can help if you’re self-harming, or know someone who is. Here are just a few that Cheryl has highlighted.
Reasons Not To Hurt Yourself
Alternatives To Self-Harm
How To Stop Self-Harming
Helpful Responses to Someone Who’s Self-Harmed
And now for the giveaway!
Because I feel everyone should read this book, I’m giving away my copy.
If you want to enter, just leave a comment here telling me why you want to read the book, if you have a question for Cheryl, or anything else you can think of.
It will end Tuesday, August 30th at 9:59PM EST and I’m making it INTERNATIONAL because why should people outside North America miss out?
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