The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos
Trying to fill out a college application, Harry decides to ignore the word limit and tell his full story to that point. When he was 8 years old, kids in his neighborhood tied him to a tree during a thunderstorm. The tree was struck by lightning and set ablaze with Harry tied directly to it. Harry has severe scars both physically and emotionally from that day. Harry had no friends until Johnny came into his life, a charismatic and confident boy who swept down and saved Harry from obscurity and loneliness. Together the two of them started a band, one that really sucked at first, but then amazingly got better and better. Called The Scar Boys, the band transported Harry from his dull life into a different type of storm, one of music and pure joy. But bands often fall apart and so do high school friendships on the brink of college. As the future looms closer, Harry has to figure out what to give up on and what is worth fighting to keep.
Vlahos’ debut teen novel is a screamingly funny wild ride. The author was in a band himself when he was younger and the moments onstage read honest, zany and completely true. The writing throughout is smart and clever, making points with arrow-sharp zingers that are surprising and make for a great read. Here is one from page 97:
Truth is, if we’d had a shred of sense, we’d have known we were getting in way over our heads. But you can’t buy shreds of sense, and even if you could, we were pretty much out of money.
Harry is a great protagonist. He is witty and smart himself, since the book is written in first person from his point of view. Vlahos manages to never lose track of Harry’s scars but also manages to make his scars much deeper than his skin and therefore the book about much more than that as well. It is a book that explores friendships, power and dreams.
An amazing debut novel, it has a winning mix of punk rock, guitars and real life. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from digital galley from Edelweiss and Egmont.