The Scar Boys is the first book written by Len Vlahos, and is a story about a boy who is struck by lightning at a young age and then starts a rock band with his only friend once he gets to high school. They get pretty good, but as usually happens with rock bands when hormones are involved, things start to fall apart. And always as they’re seeming to get pretty good again, they fall even harder. Slowly but surely, Harry (our lovely protagonist) and his happiness begins to crumble around him.
Overall, the book was pretty spectacular. Good writing pervades throughout, with powerful passages expressing the emotion of any given situation and beautiful description that lends reality to the many locales that are explored in the novel. The plot made sense, and it was clear that a lot of thought had been put into crafting something so obviously plausible that it leaves the reader unable to question that it may never have happened. The characters were unique and powerful, and each one served a tangible purpose. The main character, Harry, was especially well-built: he in and of himself is an exploration into the human psychology of a disfigured boy in the 1980’s, and Vlahos captures what this must feel like perfectly.
There was only one thing I didn’t enjoy overmuch about the novel: Vlahos’ repeated use of the phrase “strike that”. From time to time, it’s artful and well-placed, but by the end of the book it had come to bother me as it appeared on nearly every other of the 230-odd pages. But I could easily look past that to enjoy the full effect the story had on me.
The bottom line is that this is a truly great YA novel, and I would recommend it to most all of my friends. However, it’s clearly written for (and likely more easily enjoyed by) boys. I let this slide, though, because there’s a wealth of YA fiction written for girls and a dearth of truly good YA for boys. In any case, I think that most people in their teens can easily enjoy this book, gender aside. At first glance, it seems enjoyable only to people like me (who love the 70’s and 80’s for the golden age of rock they were), but I know that time-period interests aside, just about anyone can enjoy this book.