Sunday, September 8, 2013

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

Kendra, fifteen, hasn't felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse, especially because she still can't remember the most important detail-- her abuser's identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it's her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who's becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra's abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences. Scars is the unforgettable story of one girl's frightening path to the truth.

This book absolutely broke my heart to read. Cheryl Rainfield pulled from her own personal experiences to create this story, and what an amazing one it is. What made this book so hard for me to recount in a simple review are the haunting subject matters including child molestation and self-harm. As a parent I couldn’t even imagine my child going through something like that, and Scars hardly read like fiction because the characters were so pragmatic and memorable. Cheryl has a gift for creating honest and true characters; they are gritty and realistic to their situations. Throughout the book there were times that I smiled and times that I cringed, and through it all my heart wept for this poor girl who suffered so much and continued to suffer as the man who attacked her as a child began stalking her as her memories became unlocked.  All-in-all, this was an emotionally powerful book, and one I will not quickly forget.

Despite my personal experiences with it, this book gave me a better understanding of what self-harm truly means. It’s not just a way to express pain, but it is also an escape for those who cannot fathom another way of dealing with pain. And in this case, what made it all the more cruel, was that Kendra’s attacker “taught” her to cut herself if she ever released those memories. Haunted by memories and her present day stalker, Kendra is still a surprisingly strong young woman because, even if she doesn’t realize it in the beginning, she refuses to let him win by continuing with her therapy sessions. On top of the trauma of her childhood abuse, she is dealing with being a lesbian in a very unsympathetic atmosphere, and her own mother gives little support or understanding of her daughter's choices. There were times that the signs were right there for the mother to see, but they often went unseen. With the support of her therapist and her new girlfriend, Kendra slowly starts to feel safe again but when the identity of the rapist is revealed it is not only Kendra’s life at risk, her mother is also caught in the crossfire, and it is the worst betrayal ever imaginable.

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