For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Review: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

Relatable, heartbreaking, and real, this is a story of resilience--the perfect novel for readers of powerful contemporary fiction like Girl in Pieces and Every Last Word.


Before, I was a million things. Now I'm only one. The Burned Girl.

Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn't need a mirror to know what she looks like--she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.

A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be "normal" again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends--no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.

But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn't have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn't afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she's going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly. ~ Goodreads

Source: Own


Review: Ava Lee lost her parents and cousin, Sara, in a fire that also destroyed her home. She now lives with extensive scarring and endless costly procedures under the care of Sara's parents, her Uncle Glen and Aunt Cora - who is a one woman cheer team trying to get Ava back to *normal*.

Ava makes a deal with Cora to go to a new school and give it a 2 week trial run, convinced all the whispers about her and bullying will help her run out the clock and return back to the safety of home.

Instead, she runs into Piper - a fellow survivor (car crash - also scarred and in a wheelchair) who lives life very loudly and without fear about what others think. Through Piper, she finds courage to do some of the things she did before - like singing and try out for drama club and wish for more with her friend Asad. 

I'm always a little wary of reading and reviewing titles that portray trauma, disabilities and knowing whether they are an accurate or potentially damaging portrayal. 

I have no knowledge about this subject so it would be difficult for me to say how well (or not) it has been done but I did enjoy Scars Like Wings because I think it did a few things outside of the usual tropes - but here are a few of my overall thoughts.


~ Stewart does not shy away from any of the realties of Ava's life. The compression clothing, the nightly ointments, ongoing procedures or pain but...she shows that Ava is more than her scars. Still a girl with hopes, dreams, hobbies and an interest in boys.

It was nice to finally see a character with a disability not kept on the sidelines of her own life, instead of emphasizing those around her and how they feel or grow because of Ava. Although they do, it's centered on Ava - not them. 

There's your usual teen angst - club try outs, a bit of a love triangle, parties, friendship drama and not only that, but, without spoiling too much, Ava does achieve many of the things she longs for.

~ I was really unsure of Piper at first. She seemed like a stereotypical - fuck the system - only there to inspire Ava - kind of character. At times they're friendship seemed deeply unhealthy but I really like how it played out and showed how people handle their situations differently and things might not necessarily be how they appear on the surface.

~ By far, my favorite thing about this book was Ava and Aunt Cora. What a difficult position for both of them. Cora lost her only child, Sara. and is giving everything she has left in her to Ava. For Ava, but also for her own survival. And, honestly, it was a lot of pressure for one girl who is also missing everyone she lost. Cora thinks she just has to "get back out there" not really understanding how awful people can be to Ava. Especially teenagers in HS.

But Ava could be hard on Cora and Glen (her uncle) too. They are working their asses off to pay for her while still grieving for Sara. 

It was frustrating, sad, and beautiful how it all evolved over the course of the book. 

~ Loved the poetry that was scattered though out. Ava wrote poems as part of her therapy. She wouldn't talk much in group so she pours it all out in her poems. The isolation, pain. fear, hope...really well done and added so much. 

~ My one nitpick would be the mean girl drama. It felt shoehorned into a book that already had enough tension and plot. A little bit of it could have been relevant and helped guide one of the storylines, but mean girl Kenzie is written all over the place - MEAN, but no - she's the one who's hurt?, bratty then given a half-baked reason for it. It just wasn't written well. Thankfully, it wasn't enough to deter from all the good. 

Overall: I really liked this one. I *think* it stepped away from the usual, so called, trauma porn. It portrayed the reality of being a burn survivor but also showed how Ava could have a full life, filled with friends, family, hobbies and romance. 

Content warning -> Including but not limited to -> Many descriptions of the fire, the wounds and procedures after, suicide attempts, bullying. 

30 comments:

  1. Nice review, Thanks for sharing your lovely thoughts on this.

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  2. I just took a look at my review, and I also noted that I was not a fan of the mean girl storyline. I didn't feel it was necessary. I am glad to hear you enjoyed this story overall, and yes Ava and Cora were phenomenal.

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    1. I liked this so much more than I thought I would but the mean girl sub plot was just too uneven to add anything good to the story. But still liked it a lot.

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  3. I haven't read this one but it sounds like it deals with a hard issue.

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    1. It does but I think (in my admittedly non experienced opinion) it was done better than in most books of this kind.

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  4. Yay! How wonderful to read of a character with a disability not kept on the sidelines of her own life, that the book has Ava at its centre. I'm all for novels featuring/celebrating differences.

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    1. Yes! It's shockingly rare even when the book is about that person.

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  5. I like seeing that Ava is portrayed as having a full, well-rounded life and is shown as more than her burns/scars. I've run into that with other trauma books and it's like everything else in the character's life ceases to exist other the trauma.

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    1. So many of these books are more about making others feel better or using the disability as inspiration and yes, she is, but the story allows her to grow, make mistakes and have average teen problems.

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  6. I have heard some great things about this one, so glad you felt the same. The mean girl thing does sound a little extra, but I too would be able to overlook it because of the rest of the story. I will definitely keep this one on my list, great review!

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    1. Not only wasn't it necessary, but the author tried to make her less cliche, more complex, and just made a mess.

      But it is not the main point of the story and I was able to gloss over it.

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  7. This sounds like a book I would really enjoy. I'm adding it to my TBR on Goodreads :)

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  8. At least the mean girl was just a minor annoyance. It's like every book about high school has to have one...But it's commendable that the disability rep was done well!

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    1. It actually made sense to have one in this case and she was relevant to the story - just not written well. Especially when it came to motivation and redemption.

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  9. Sounds like a pretty realistic and hard hitting take on a tough situation. Glad the disability rep seems good and doesn't sugarcoat things. I feel like I've read a fair amount of books with that Piper- like character but glad it worked out.

    I love the sound of the aunt too.

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    1. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it - mean girl aside.

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  10. I really enjoy stories like this, and it reminds me of the stories the great Catherine Anderson back in the day. Great review, and I'm definitely going to check this one out. Hugs, RO

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    1. Oh, I'll have to look that author up & thank you :-)

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  11. Thanks for making me want to try this one. 😊

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    1. Eeek. Lol hope you like it if you give it a try.

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  12. A long nice review, I have to keep it in mind :)

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    1. I know! Look at me writing a proper review lol

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  13. This does sound like an awesome read. Glad to see you enjoyed it. Great review.

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  14. It definitely sounds like it dealt with being a burn survivor well, which is great. I'm glad to hear it had a lot of positives! The mean girl drama definitely seems like something that could have been left out though.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. It was definitely about overcoming her scars and rejoining life - but also so much more which I loved.

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  15. I am REALLY loving your new header, it just seems to fit you perfectly, and I adore its level of charm. Happy to see that you enjoyed this one here, love a story that portrays trauma like this.

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