Review Blog

Oct 24 2019

Scars like wings by Erin Stewart

cover image

Simon and Schuster, 2019. ISBN: 9781471185991.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Themes: Burns, Survival, Identity, Resilience. Ava is slowly recovering from a house fire that killed her parents and her cousin Sara; she is the sole survivor, but survivor is hardly a word she likes because she has burns to 60 percent of her body and a face that is changed forever. Gone are her friends, her boyfriend, and her future as a singer in the spotlight. Instead she is forced to wear a body compression suit, and a bandana to cover her patchy head and missing ear; her left hand is a stump with a toe to replace her thumb; and her face is a patchwork of skin grafts, with eyes that have loose hanging underlids. Her survival is thanks to her father pushing her through the window to safety below - a survival she claims was never a choice on her part.
Her uncle Glenn, and aunt Cora, Sara's parents, are now her carers. To please them and the 'Committee on Ava's Life', Ava reluctantly agrees to try out at a new school. There she finds a budding friendship with another burn survivor, a car crash victim, Piper, who takes a gutsy defiant approach to dealing with her circumstances. Ava becomes involved in the backstage crew for a school musical production and another tentative friendship leads her to hope that one day romance might return to her life. However there are always the looks of horror and disgust to deal with, the whispers, and then the bullying. It takes Ava a while to understand she can't just block people out of her world, she is actually in need of the love and support being offered her by people who care.
The wings of the title are the wings of the phoenix rising from the ashes, Piper's totem. Ava has to find her own wings, and her own way towards a new future. It is an incredibly hard journey. The author Erin Stewart spent time listening to the stories of burns survivors, children who suffered the torture tank of skin peels and multiple skin graft surgeries, and somehow managed to go on and find joy in life again. So the story is heart-rending in its authenticity.
Scars like wings shares many of the themes of Sean William's 2019 YA novel, Impossible music - the anger and isolation of the sufferer, the loss of identity, bitter rejection of well meaning outsiders, the path to humility and self acceptance, and the struggles to find a new life that can somehow incorporate the passion of the life they lost. Scars like wings offers insight into suffering, and overcoming adversity, and finding personal strength and resilience. Highly recommended for teenage readers.
Helen Eddy

BUY IT ON booktopia
Archived Blog Entries