[AD – Gifted. I won a copy of this proof while attending YALC so unsure if it needs a disclosure or not but I’d like to assure you all that all my thoughts are my own and winning this proof has not affected this review.]
Scars Like Wings By Erin Stewart
Format: Paperback – advance reader copy.
Publisher: Simon and Schuester
Release Date: 1st October 2019
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 theatre 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.
I am not scared by burns but many have thought it or asked me if I was. That’s the thing about psoriasis is that it can be mistaken as a burn or a scar from burns – I’ve even been asked if I had been in a fire before because of how bad my skin was on my face and neck when I was at school. I think because of this experience it meant whenever I could find a book with a main character who didn’t look ‘normal’ I would always leap on it and determined to read it. To know that looking different whether it be by genetics or by a fire that I wasn’t alone. This is why when I first heard about Scars Like Wings, I was determined to read it and had all my fingers and toes crossed that this was the book that I would have loved as a sixteen-year-old back at school when I was constantly being pointed out for looking different.
Compared with R.J Palico’s middle-grade novel Wonder (which I loved) as it’s YA counterpart, I would say there are certainly similarities between the two novels that people will see and admire. But, Scars Like Wings deals with so much more than Ava’s journey returning to school a year after the fire that claimed the lives of her parents and cousin, Sara. Throughout the novel, there is a huge sense of grief that Ava is having to deal with which I felt Erin Stewart approached really well.
Ava isn’t just grieving for her parents or cousin, her grief is written in many forms throughout the book and deals with Ava as she finally begins to confront different aspects of grief. In the novel, Ava finds it hard to go on facebook or see the pictures of what she looked like before the fire and because of that she separates herself from her life before. In Ava’s mind, there are two sides of her now, the Ava before the fire and the one who was burned and scarred. But scars run deeper than just the first layer of skin.
Returning to school is a big deal for Ava because she is aware of how others will simply just see her and react on that basis before getting to know her. Striking a deal with her aunt Cora after the doctors gave her the all-clear Ava goes back to school for a trial period of two weeks – that is until she meets Piper another ‘survivor’ who attends the school and is in a wheelchair. Piper was a character I very much enjoyed, I loved her wit and sarcasm and blatant attitude to the world around her but there is a mystery as while she encourages and pushes Ava to do more, Piper and the reason behind her burns are kept closed off. Using humour to deflect the pain, Ava and Piper pair up and their friendship begins to evolve especially with the introduction of Asad who is part of the school’s drama club working behind the scenes.
“Before, I was a million things. Now I’m only one. The Burned Girl.”
I loved the introduction of drama and musicals, I mean who doesn’t like a good musical. Asad is a theatre geek and probably would describe himself as such, Piper was once part of the drama crowd and so was Ava at her old school – known for her talented voice. I liked this introduction that there was something more in common between Piper and Ava than just being burns victims and that their friendship first grew from that common factor that there was much more to it.
Despite being humourous and sarcastic, all the characters in this book were deeply complex and layered with there being a lot more to them than specific incidents. I particularly loved Ava’s narrative and her internal monologue throughout the novel, she has such a distinctive voice, particularly during instances in hospital and counselling were she refers to her ‘Committee of Ava’s Life’ which basically means the medical professionals and her Aunt Cora.
Aunt Cora and Uncle Glenn were a set of characters which I loved and felt that Erin had written the whole family dynamic really well. While Ava now lives with them, she feels as if she is living in the shadow of a ghost, Sara, after all, she lives in her cousin’s room now. While for Cora and Glenn it is clear that they feel similar as they are living in the shadows left by Ava’s parents. Both sides have lost people in their lives but are still trying to figure out this new way of life together. I adored Cora because although at times she could appear overbearing, you could always tell it was because she had the best intentions at heart. Paired with Glenn it made sense as he was much more reserved but clear that he and his wife, although wanting to be there for Ava and look after her, they were still grieving for their own daughter. My heart kinda broke for this whole family if I’m honest and I have to admit there were a few tear shed whenever this came up.
Tragically beautiful, Scars Like Wings is a novel which deals with so much and is written so beautifully that it will bring tears to your eyes. A story of friendship, love, family, loss and acceptance and self-discovery in the face of a new normal – I dare anyone to try and read this book without feeling a little emotional. A stunning debut, I can’t wait to see what Erin Stewart writes next!
Scars Like Wings is released in two weeks time! Will you be picking it up?
Thank you again to the team at Simon&Schuester who were raffling off copies at YALC!