Scars Like Wings

Contains potentially triggering mentions of the loss of a parent, fire, death and suicide
Scars Like Wings
Written by Erin Stewart
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Disability
384 Pages
Published October 1st 2019
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia
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★★★★
Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see.

Sixteen year old Ava Gardener is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all. Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn't?

When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle for survival and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the glass, or the people by her side.
Ava Gardener is the sole survivor of a house fire that took the lives of her parents and cousin Sara. Ava lives with the scars that serve as a reminder of her sorrow, for the lives lost that fateful day and the life that she's been so cruelly denied. Once an outgoing and popular girl, Ava has become a recluse, completing her education through correspondence and reluctantly attending group counselling appointments for adolescents who have survived tragedy and trauma.

Enduring invasive reconstructive surgery and grafts, Ava is restricted to compression bandages to ensure her skin remains taut during the heeling process, her aunt and uncle working tirelessly to afford Ava's ongoing medical expenses. Cared for by her aunt and uncle, Sara's parents who are mourning the loss of their only child, Ava understands the financial burden she's become. Championing her recovery, Cora is enthusiastic when Ava's counsellor suggests Ava return to school, no longer challenged by her online studies and needing to gain a sense of normalcy so to appease Cora, Ava agrees to a two week trial.

Ava Gardener is a wonderful young woman who has endured devastating tragedy, losing her parents and cousin in traumatic circumstances and although heavily scarred, Ava survived. The intensity of the fire burnt over sixty percent of Ava's skin and although she's endured multiple grafting procedures, Ava's facial scarring has become a barrier in regaining her independence. Through counselling Ava befriends Piper, the two young women both survivors. Piper was involved in a car accident and now physically disabled as a result, never allowing herself to become a victim or survivor but rather a girl who is thriving. Neither Ava or Piper serve as an inspiration to others, they simply want to experience adolescence.

Ava and Piper are characters of contrast, Ava wants to remain as inconspicuous as possible, Piper is self deprecating and uses humour to make antagonisers and detractors feel uncomfortable. Ava is a kindred spirit filling the void of loneliness for Piper, Piper encourages Ava to broaden her horizons and although both Piper and Ava continue to navigate their tentative friendship, Ava's confidence begins to blossom.

Scars Like Wings is a gentle and healing narrative, to not merely survive but to endure, to exist and to live again. Diverse young adult literature is almost exclusively sexually diverse, multicultural, multigender or hearing and vision impaired and Scars Like Wings is an incredibly important narrative. Physical scarring can often be debilitating, not only effecting confidence but the discomfort and pain associated with skin trauma. Ava's experience in finding her sense of normalcy is a personal journey, she experiences isolation, undiagnosed depression, acute pain and her movements restricted due to her compression bandages. Her recovery is ongoing, with Cora massaging ointment into her skin nightly. Psychologically, Ava also experiences vivid reminders of her loss which some readers may find confronting.

Erin Stewart has authored a tender, captivating narrative and an unflinching account of the scars we carry. Some not always visible. A beautifully compassionate debut novel and essential reading. 

16 comments

  1. Simply wonderful review, Kelly. I’ve not heard of this one before but it sounds like such a moving and realistic look at one girl’s struggles. I can’t imagine what Ava is dealing with and the challenges she must face. Really enjoyed your thoughts on this one.

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    1. Thanks Tanya. It was such a wonderful read, harrowing to see all that Ava had endured but untilately hopeful. Her strength of character was amazing. I'd love to see what you think of it.

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  2. I agree, that we rarely, if ever, see diversity such as we see in Scars Like Wings. I thought the book was fantastic! I could not stop reading, and my heart! Cora especially pulled at my heartstrings, and I wanted to give her a million hugs.

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    1. I think because young adult seems to promote unblemished, almost perfect characters so often that it's only recently that we'e seeing realistic characters and a wider range of diversity. It's so incredibly important. I loved Cora's character, she only wanted the best for Ava and was instrumental in helping Ava gain her independance again. So glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!

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  3. I've seen this one around but didn't know what it was about. It sounds powerful.

    Is there a romance between Ava and Piper? It's fine either way but I would love to read a book where there is just a strong friendship.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. There's no romance between the two but a lovely and genuine friendship. I think both characters are at a point in their lives where they don't need a romance to complicate their healing, which I loved. I'd love to see what you think of it Karen!

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  4. Wow, this sounds really powerful. Beautifully outlined Kelly!

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    1. Thanks Amber. It's a beautiful read and it's so lovely to see the emphasis was on healing and learning to live rather than surviving. I think you'll really enjoy this one.

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  5. Oh this sounds heavy – beautiful, but heavy. But it also sounds powerful and important.
    Fantastic review Kelly.

    XOXO Sarah.

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    1. It's a remarkable read Sarah and one I think you'll really enjoy. We need more healing and empowering narratives in young adult.

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  6. Whew. I like the contrasts between Piper and Ava, each enduring their own hardships. And your point about how physical scarring matters is well taken. I work with a wonderful woman who is scarred from burns *I think* (I'll never outright ask) and she never takes photos. She's this gregarious presence in the office, with a wicked sense of humour, but you can still notice how the scarring affects her life.

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    1. It's really why representation is so important isn't it, so others can relate and it helps readers to understand a small aspect of what survivors endure. She sounds like a remarkable woman Verushka, I love someone with a brilliant sense of humour.

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  7. Wow, this book sounds like a lot but it sounds that everything in it is done well. Wonderful review, I hadn't even heard of this book but I really want to read it now.

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    1. I think you'll really enjoy this one, it's so beautifully written and absolutely captivating, almost impossible to put down!

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  8. This sounds absolutely beautiful, Kelley. And you gave such a lovely review of it as well. <3

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  9. I'm starting this one soon for a blog tour and I'm really looking forward to it! People seem to really like the overall concept and how the story is presented. Lovely review!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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