Summary: Dealing with memories of being repeatedly raped without being able to identify the instigator, Kendra uses cutting to forget and relieve the emotional pain she feels. She turns to her art to express the turmoil going on inside, and when she meets and falls in love with Meghan, a girl from school, life seems to get a little better. Kendra’s counselor, family friend and teacher make up for the lack of parental support at home, but her abuser is stalking her, and old memories keep resurfacing. When the truth finally comes out, Kendra must rely on her support system and inner strength to see her through.
Number of Pages: 233
Age Range: 15-17
Review: It says on her website that Cheryl Rainfield writes the books she needed as teen and couldn’t find. Scars came out in 2010, long after I finished high school, but I wish I had read it back then, because I was also looking and not finding those books. Kendra’s thoughtful journey of coming to terms with the horrible things that have been done to her was relatable and powerful. Her writing is on level with Beth Goobie when it comes to tackling difficult topics with sensitivity, hope, and strong female characters.
Rainfield’s writing carries emotional depth and profound honesty, as well as the important message of the necessity of finding people who will support you unconditionally, whether they are family members or not. It took courage for Kendra to turn to others outside her family, and fortunately she was rewarded with support for her efforts.
I loved so many aspects of Scars, as you can probably tell from the Memorable Quotes section where I feel like I have copied down at least half the book. I loved the art and how it’s a part of Kendra’s self-expression. I loved the conversations and musings about physical and emotional scars, and I loved that Kendra gets to experience love (also emotionally and physically) in a way that fits for her, with another girl.
A kick-ass girl who sets fires and takes names no less; supporting and loving Kendra without judgement when she needs it the most. In short, Kendra’s girlfriend Meghan is an awesome character. I understood what Rainfield’s writing demonstrates about pain recognizing pain, and I was happy that Meghan and Kendra were both able to provide solace for each other.
There was one thing that nagged at me though. Kendra told her parents that she had been raped on a regular basis when she was a child, and I thought it would have been pretty easy to figure out who did it, based on a process of elimination. They would have been able to determine who had the most access to her, who was alone with her, and therefore who was abusing her. I suppose they weren’t really interested in finding out, but they could have if they wanted to, it shouldn’t have been the mystery it appeared to be.
I know some will read Scars to gawk at it, having no personal experience with scars, abuse, pain, or cutting. But I’m okay with that, because Rainfield’s writing is solid and I am confident that readers will still take something life-affirming and strengthening away from their reading experience. And everyone can use that.
“She crosses her arms over her chest and turns to look at Mr. Blair. And I see her like a painting in my mind – a narrow, lonely figure leaning up against dented grey lockers, her face defiant yet vulnerable, the sadness trapped inside her.
But I wouldn’t paint it like that. I’d paint her bandaged and bleeding, stumbling alone over the rubble of the hall, sharp slabs of the floor poking up to block her way, with smoldering lockers lying across her path – and nothing visible at the end of the smoke-filled hall.” – Kendra from Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, page 25
“I need painting almost as much as I need cutting maybe more. Because if I couldn’t paint, I’d be a girl without a mouth. I say things through painting that I can’t say any other way. It’s how I pull up hidden truths, express the pain that I hide from others. But when things are really bad, it’s only my utility knife that releases the screams inside me.” – Kendra from Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, page 28
“My mouth tastes like metal. What a choice: make myself feel better or put my family into debt. I know what I have to do.” – Kendra from Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, pages 46-47
“Artists show so much through their art – and not always consciously. We show things in our choices of color or lack of it; in what we decide to paint; and even in our brush strokes – like the way my mom’s are so controlled while mine are so fluid. Art is like a printout of my soul, showing all the things I can’t say. And if he’s near me still, if he’s watching me, he already knows that.” – Kendra from Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, pages 55-56
“Another excuse. You can see when someone’s been hurt like I was. It’s obvious. Something changes in their eyes; pain becomes their center, even when they try to hide it. Like Meghan’s eyes; I know my eyes have it, too. There’s no way to miss it; it almost hurts to see.
I told them in so many ways: jumping at everyone’s touch, keeping quiet to avoid too much attention, and hiding my body in loose clothes. Even my art screamed for help. I don’t believe she didn’t see it. Didn’t want to see it – now that, I believe.” – Kendra from Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, page 84
“‘I almost envy you your scars,’ Meghan says. ‘They’re something visible, something you can point to, to show how much you hurt. Something that lasts longer than a bruise. I don’t have that.’
‘I never thought about it that way,’ I say slowly. ‘I guess they’re like the marks he never left on my skin.’
Meghan runs her fingers over my scars again. No one’s ever touched them before. No one’s ever seen them, except me. It doesn’t feel as shameful as I thought it would. It almost feels like a relief, to have someone know – and to have that person not judge me.” – Conversation between Meghan and Kendra from Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, page 140
“I pull her back to me, press her close. This is the first time someone has touched me that I haven’t felt his hands on me instead. The first time it’s actually felt beautiful. Maybe he’s finally lost his power over me.” – Kendra from Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, page 160
“‘I just want you to try to do other things instead, if you can. Your body’s been through so much abuse: it doesn’t deserve to be punished more. You don’t deserve this abuse, this repeated threat to your life.’ – Carolyn from Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, page 178
“But it isn’t over, not really. I’ll have more memories to face, more feelings I don’t want to feel. But now I know who he is, and this time I won’t be alone. And this time, I know I’ll be safe.
‘You’re so much stronger than I am,’ Mom says.
I don’t argue with her; it’s true.” – Kendra from Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, page 226
“I’ll probably never know if I’d have been drawn to cutting if he hadn’t taught me how to use it to keep me silent. I don’t think it was always just me repeating the abuse or being under his control. My cutting was about trying to deal with more pain than I could handle. I’ve got other ways of dealing with it now, ways to get the comfort I need that don’t come from the edge of a blade.
I catch myself staring at my arm sometimes, trying to figure out which scars were the first – the ones he made me cut. But I don’t wonder for very long; I really don’t want to know.
Other times, I look at my scars and see something else: a girl who was trying to cope with something horrible that she should never have had to live through at all. My scars show pain and suffering, but they also show my will to survive. They’re a part of my history that’ll always be there.
And now, sometimes I don’t bother hiding the scars. I just let them show, even though I get stares, rude comments, and questions from strangers. I figure I’ve already gone through the worst; getting stared at isn’t that big of a deal.” – Kendra from Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, pages 230-231
“Like Kendra, I don’t know if I would have turned to cutting as a form of coping if I hadn’t been taught to do it. But I know that although cutting hurt me, it also helped me survive.
I also know that none of us deserves to be hurt, that it’s important to treat ourselves gently, and that we need to surround ourselves with loving people who can mirror that love back to us. I hope you’ll find ways to get support and comfort, to be gentle with yourself, and to take good care of yourself.” – Cheryl Rainfield from the Author’s Note in Scars by Cheryl Rainfield, page 234
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield is published by WestSide Press, (2010).