ARC Review: The Scar Boys

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Book Title/Author: The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos
Publication Date/Publisher: January 21, 2014/Egmont USA
Series: No
Source and Format: Received e-ARC from publisher via Goodreads Giveaway (and also on Netgalley and Edelweiss) in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 3.75 stars

From Goodreads:

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay–help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores–Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry’s description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he’s looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

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I’ve recently really started to enjoy books with a male POV – I think the rise of dual POVs has led me here, even though those aren’t always my favorite. The Scar Boys is chock full of things I like: male POV, road trip, bands with female bassists, characters with pretentious names, and 80′s skate punk.
The Scar Boys is the story of Harbinger Robert Francis Jones, or Harry, as he prefers to be called. Bullied his whole life, Harry gets tied to a tree while “playing” with the kids in the neighborhood and left there during a storm. The tree is hit by lightning and catches fire, leaving Harry with burns all over his body.
It’s not until middle school, when Harry makes his first real friend, Johnny. One day, Johnny says those 5 words I’m sure all teenage boys have said, or heard, or at the very least though: We should start a band. And just like that, without any prior interest in music or skills that might show an aptitude for any instrument at all, they round up a few more band members and book some shows. And then they start rehearsing. And they become The Scar Boys.It turns out they have an amazing band. After losing their first bassist, they find Cheyenne…and they all pretty much fall in love with her. And then they press a record, pack into a van, and go on tour.

The Scar Boys is told as a college application essay, which I thought was an interesting spin and also very brave for a debut author. This does not read like a debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what Len Vlahos puts out next.

2 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Scar Boys

    • You forget that it’s the college essay, but it was definitely an interesting way to tell the story. Like..it actually has a purpose to be told.

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