Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart
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.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Delacorte in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I had zero expectations for this book, and it blew me away. What a fantastic debut.
Scars Like Wings combines so many of the things I enjoy in contemporaries, and attached them to an amazing girl and an important topic. How many times have we judged people by their outside, or thought less of them because of some sort of difference that makes us, for no good reason, feel uncomfortable? Difference is not something people like to talk about. Because we all want to believe we have no unconscious bias and that we are all perfect humans.
Ava is the sole survivor of a fire that killed in her parents and her cousin. After a year, she has reached the point where she can go back to school… and that’s terrifying. Ava is acutely aware of her appearance and tuned to the way people react to her. She decides, before walking in the door, it will be a nightmare. Ava’s transformation is fantastic in this book. I really appreciate the emphasis on “not okay”. As in… things are not okay, but lets find the “new normal”.
One of the things that stuck out to me the most was the twisting and turning of the relationships. In Scars Like Wings, there’s no villains and no heroes. I really enjoyed the complexity of all the characters and that the relationships were not just surface-deep. There were multiple stories being told here, and it was great.
The writing style is also very good. Erin Stewart is never preachy. She’s not flowery. The characters’ sarcasm comes through easily, without excessive (exhaustive) interpretation. It was really easy to get into the flow of this one. I read it in one sitting, over a couple of hours. It was a quick read that changed its tone subtly and made you love ALL the characters. All of them. Even the ones you thought you were supposed to hate at the beginning.
Scars Like Wings takes a topic most of us are uncomfortable with a makes it vulnerable and tangible. Even if you have not experienced severe physical trauma, you can relate to the flood of Ava’s raw emotions. The end was so filled with hope and determination that I teared up a little. I loved it.
Some small asides: I really liked all the Broadway musical references! I was totally obsessed with Broadway musicals at Ava’s age and I’m pretty sure I got all the references and am quite pleased. I also liked that Ava didn’t need someone to call her “beautiful” to find worth in herself. And I really like the bold simplicity of the cover.
In short – great book, great characters, great debut. I’ll be watching for Erin Stewart’s next story.
Are you a musical theatre buff? I haven’t seen a lot of the latest stuff, but I kinda want to see Six? I know a lot of the classics though and there’s a lot of talk about Wicked (one of my favorites) in Scars Like Wings. Let’s chat about your faves in the comments!