Sunday, February 1, 2015

What we're reading: Realistic Fiction

The Scar Boys
by Len Vlahos
Realistic Fiction
237 pages

10th grade and up

Reviewed by Anarda

Hurray for music (rock and roll, in this case) for saving more than one teen life! Many years ago I read Frank Portman’s King Dork and absolutely loved the way music infused the life of the protagonist, who imagined his (nonexistent) musical career in terms of hilarious cover and song titles, and whose experiences with girls and music do follow a strange, circuitous and haphazard parallel path to success!

Now we have The Scar Boys, ostensibly a “personal essay” that outgrew its 250-word limit, and written by the literally scarred 19-year-old Harry Jones for a college admissions officer in the 1980s. Every chapter is titled after an appropriate song (“Rock and Roll Band” for the creation of The Scar Boys band, ”Punk Rock Girl” in honor of the Doc Martin-shod girl who joins the Scar Boys and changes EVERYTHING), wherein we experience Harry’s increasingly sophisticated interpretation of his life “so far”-- and what a distance he has come. Ignored and/or bullied as a child, Harry starts his story with the lightning incident that causes his hospitalization and terrible scarring, and continues with his being ignored and/or bullied as a teen before becoming the too-grateful sidekick of one of the popular boys in high school. Starting a band, and including a girl who is musical to her bones, begins Harry’s transformation from a passive and yearning “yes-man” to a confident and independent songster and college hopeful.

Refreshingly, this story of a physically and emotionally damaged guy is not about his being recognized by others as “heroic” or “saintly” despite his scarring, which so many books suggest is the norm. Rather, it shows how owning who and what you are is the path to maturity, heartbreak and all. What a nice surprise from a new author.

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