Friday, June 24, 2016

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos: Book Review

The Scar Boys
Author: Len Vlahos
Publisher: Egmont USA, 2014  
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Age: 14 to 17, Young Adult
Pages: 237

Len Vlahos captures the angst of a shy teen boy who is isolated from his peers because of his ugly appearance. Set in the 1980s, Harry tells his story with a measure of humor and witty sarcasm. Harry feels like a “monster,” but truth be told, if appearances count, he is, at least physically. Bullied at age eight by classmates and tied to a tree in a thunderstorm, lightning strikes the tree, leaving Harry with hideous facial scars. Harry endures years of physical pain and emotional damage, but learns to cope with the help of a psychiatrist. 

Friendless for the most part in school, Harry is surprised one day when Johnny, one of the popular kids, befriends him. Life takes a dramatic turn. Harry discovers a vast love of guitar music and finds acceptance among his peers. Together he and Johnny form a rock band called the "Scar Boys." Life in the band is great at first, until the summer of high school graduation, when the band goes on tour. Harry is shocked to learn that Johnny plans to quit the band in college. Devastated, Harry could care less about college. Guitar and the "Scar Boys" have become his life--and identity. 

Harry’s world topples. Adding to complications, he has fallen in love with band member, Chey, who doesn’t seem to mind his scars. Problem is, she has fallen in love with Johnny and Harry is jealous. In a flare up, Johnny abandons the tour midway. Driving home, he's involved in an accident and permanently loses a leg. For the first time, it is Johnny who feels like the “monster.” He even pushes Chey away, to spare her the agony of seeing him permanently disabled. Harry, who has long been on the receiving end of the friendship, swallows his pride and reaches out to Johnny. He convinces him he was wrong about Chey, and possibly about the band. Music can heal him too and so the friendship matures.  

Written as Harry's college admissions essay initially, Vlahos digs deep into the hearts of these teens, sharing a story partly based on personal experience. Chapter titles are songs from the 1980's period.