Review: The Scar Boys

Author: Len Vlahos
Date of Publication: January 21 2014
Pages: 256
Source: Library Ebook

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.


I don't know why I finished The Scar Boys. I think it's because I wanted to finish something and get that sense of accomplishment. Plus, it's summer and I have nothing better to do. I'm not saying The Scar Boys is awful. I'm just saying it is definitely not my type of read. By that, I mean that I was bored.

I kind of read "band" and "rock and roll" and thought "Oooh, this book is going to be about fame and drugs and music!" while in reality, the story was only about one of those things, music, and finding yourself. Which I guess is fine and all, but I'm not really into realistic contemporary. I like dark contemporary.

Harry was tied to a tree that was struck by lightning when he was a kid, and that left several scars, physically and emotionally. Harry is the narrator of The Scar Boys. This is the essay for his college application. He's an interesting person that has some wit. He's also a complete pushover. Harry has been bullied and no one, not even the teachers, does anything about it. Take note that this story is set around the 70s, I think, and I wouldn't know, but I suppose the anti-bullying campaigns common to schools now weren't around back then.

The Scar Boys is mostly about Harry's life. I don't think there were that many actual plot events. I thought the story was slow and boring, and none of the characters or their relationships interested me. But, I can't just say I was bored with a story and end my review. So, I guess I'll try to elaborate a little more.

One thing I know YA readers will appreciate is that Harry has a relationship with his parents. That is a part of the story, and the conflict and love that comes from those relationships help define him. Also, assuming you know rock and roll, or punk rock, the title of every chapter is a song. Maybe you'll enjoy thinking about the relevance of that song to the book, or you're the type of person that likes playlists. I didn't recognize any of the songs (my parents are from the Middle East, my mom doesn't listen to foreign music and surprisingly enough, my dad is more into pop like Madonna and Michael Jackson than rock, which he intensely dislikes).

There was not much romance within the novel, although there was some conflict about crushes. A lot of the focus was on the friendship between Harry and Johnny, which still doesn't make sense to me. I don't really like Johnny because Harry made him sounds like a jerk. I thought the relationship was rather dull to me, and maybe it could have been explained in way that would make me root for it rather than wish it would end.

There was a twist at the end that I was completely apathetic towards. It wasn't much of a twist because it wasn't explored, and the story ended quite weirdly. There wasn't a large sense of closure and I don't understand the big revelation. Or rather, I didn't understand how it came about.

I didn't enjoy The Scar Boys and there wasn't much I got out of it. I don't know if this will be the case for everyone, so if you're more into these kind of stories, give it a shot. This was a bit of a stretch for me as I'm a speculative fic type of person hoping this book would be the next coming of Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan. It wasn't. Let's move on.

1 star because I didn't like it.



  1. Aww, too bad you didn't enjoy this one, because the synopsis sounds really good. :/

    1. I read someone else's review recently, and they said this story was depressing, and that's pretty much what I wish I wrote in my review. It was demoralizing.



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