Available January 2014
In Len Vlahos’s novel, The Scar Boys, Harbinger “Harry” Jones describes himself as “socially lower than a pariah and only barely higher than a corpse.” As an 8-year old, he was disfigured in a horrific bullying incident and will live with the physical scars for the rest of his life. However, it’s the mental scars that have haunted him ever since.
Harry finds an outlet, and eventual salvation, through music. He and a friend — who is pretty much the definition of a “frenemy” — start a band called “The Scar Boys”, and spend a summer touring. Betrayals, shifting allegiances, friendship, financial difficulties, and a love triangle are all part of Harry’s journey, but the music is what rescues him, bringing eventual self-acceptance.
The music in The Scar Boys spoke to me, as it would to anyone who grew up during the 1980s, and I am always looking for books that speak to teenage boys, so I was happy to find this ARC at the NEIBA conference in Providence this year. While I think The Scar Boys is a really really good book, I don’t think it is a GREAT book. Wonder and The Burn Journals both do a better job at describing the pain-filled, lonely journey of an adolescent boy coming to terms with his life. I don’t know too many teenage boys who care one way or the other about the 1980s, and I think the musical references will be lost on them, unless they are hardcore music aficionados. Since music is so integral to this story, the type of music does matter. Nevertheless, the story of being different and feeling like an outcast is universal, and I will certainly add The Scar Boys to my list of YA recommendations.