Terry's Reviews > Scars

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
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's review
Feb 15, 2010

bookshelves: need-teen-reviewer, ya-12-and-up, z-2010-books
Read from February 26 to March 01, 2010

From my review on Scrub-a-Dub-Tub From the covers, you would never guess that there are any connections between Dancing in the Snow and Scars. Let me just say there is darkness in each one and bright, colorful moments, too. Each of the stories features a middle school girl who is struggling to understand and get past abuse.

Like Min (Dancing Through the Snow), Kendra is also searching for “normal.” She was molested as a child, but cannot remember her attacker. Through counseling and her art, she is getting closer to identifying her assailant … and he knows it because he is stalking her and sending her reminders – “never tell, or I’ll kill you.” As her anxiety soars, so does her need to cut herself to stop the pain. Kendra’s relationship with her mother was never close, and her doubts about the abuse have not helped Kendra. Now, with her father losing his job, they want to cut back on expenses by ending Kendra’s counseling – the thing helping her the most. Kendra is also hiding her relationship with Meghan because her parents won’t accept that she is gay. They blame the abuse for “causing” it.

Unlike Min, Kendra’s journey to overcoming sexual abuse is central to the plot. Kendra is more “defined” by it, as it is all consuming in her life. That said, Cheryl Rainfield’s emphasis is not on the acts themselves; Kendra’s flashbacks are “snapshot” memories: an arm, a whisper. The story is built on the aftermath: her own frustrations and fears about identifying her attacker and getting past the abuse; the environment at home, her relationship with her counselor, relationships at school, and her friends – both adult and peer.

Rainfield does an exceptional job helping the reader understand Kendra, both as a typical teen struggling with growing up, and also as a young girl who is harming herself to deal with being a victim of sexual abuse. She makes it clear that these kinds of pains are too big to handle “alone.” Kendra tells the story in first person, so there is a lot of dialogue … just the kind of conversation you need to hear. There are multiple examples of counseling sessions. She finds quiet, non-judgemental support in Mrs. Archer, her art teacher, and Sandy, a long-time artist friend of her mother’s. Sandy, who is gay, is Kendra’s refuge. She knows she always has a safe place to go. Sandy also helps her sell her art so she can continue to pay for counseling on her own.

Both girls are very “real,” and I finished the books happy and hopeful for each of them. Min’s story is a little more predictable, as you’re fairly certain that she will become Jessica’s daughter. Kendra’s journey is different, but equally hopeful. At the end of Scars, Cheryl Rainfield offers an author’s note about her own “unbearable emotional pain,” and that she cut herself, too. She also includes an outstanding list of resources for parents, counselors, and teens.

Both Dancing Through the Snow and Scars are exceptional stories for middle grade and young adult, respectively. [The graphic descriptions of cutting require a more mature audience.:] Min is a character who will appeal to girls; Kendra’s persona, to my mind, is more universal. They are great read-to-yourself books, but they also lend themselves to small group and book-club-like discussions. They are also ideal candidates for a parent-teen book club and dormant readers. I couldn’t put either book down!
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