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Radiant Shadows


Scars - Cheryl Rainfield Scars was a tough read, not only because of its subject matter - sexual abuse, homophobia, domestic violence, cutting - but because I wanted so badly to like it and it just didn't move me the way I had been expecting.My main issue with Scars was how Kendra's struggle with her resurfacing memories of sexual abuse - and the resulting cutting - was almost overshadowed by the suspense and psychological thrill of her being stalked by her abuser. Scars is already dealing with so many different issues, that the addition of this outside element took away from everything happening on the inside. Instead of connecting with Kendra, of being able to empathize with her conflicting emotions over her resurfacing memories and the danger she felt that would come if she were able to remember her abuser, I was instead focused on her current danger, that of being stalked. I wasn't able to connect with her emotionally, because I was confused about whether she was repressing her memories because it was too painful to remember, or because she was worried about her abuser finding out that she remembered his face. It almost made Scars imply that if she wasn't being stalked, she wouldn't be suffering from the trauma of sexual abuse as she would feel safe. I just felt the amount of subjects being covered shifted the focus away from Kendra's struggle with her memories, her emotions and her relationships which made it hard for her struggles to truly resonate with me.The relationships Kendra had with all of the supporting characters also failed to resonate with me. Sandy seemed to be strategically placed in her life as a source of doubt - could he be her abuser? I feel like his presence was meant merely as a distraction, so we weren't looking too closely for the real abuser. Her relationship with Meghan was forced and developed way too quickly, even though Meghan asked for them to take things slowly. I also kept waiting for Kendra to show some uncomfortableness with being intimate with someone, after the kind of abuse she experienced, and was slightly confused when she was able to completely separate the two kinds of interactions. I did like that the focus was on their relationship though, and not on their struggles with their sexuality - it was refreshing to see two female protagonists in a high school relationship who were more concerned over being with each other then with what their classmates would think. Her therapy sessions with Carolyn seemed unrealistic, as I found it hard to imagine a therapist would let so much of herself be exposed during a session with a patient. As for Kendra's mom, she needs a section all on her own. I feel as though, as readers, we're thrown in to the middle of a very strained relationship that needs explaining, but none is truly given. Kendra does not trust her mother, not with her emotions or with her art, and blocks her at every turn. Her mother responds by guilting Kendra with tears and accusations that she's not trying hard enough. I assume that Kendra's mother is placing blame on herself, for letting the sexual abuse happen, and is taking it out on Kendra. I also assume that she is jealous of Kendra's ability to paint what she feels, and her response is to criticize Kendra's technique to make herself feel better. Lastly, I assume that Kendra's mother has a pile of issues that aren't related to Kendra, but that she's not sure how to deal with them so she fakes that things are ok. I assume all of this because I don't know - none of her behaviour is properly explained, which made for a detached reading experience. I couldn't relate to Kendra's problems with her mother, because I didn't understand how or why her mother would react so strongly to certain events.I absolutely loved the scenes where Kendra was painting. The emotions she was feeling, while not transparent while reading Scars became crystal clear as I read about what she was creating. Kendra's pain and fear came alive through her artwork and I loved seeing that side of her - the side I had hoped to uncover while reading about her journey. It also helped me to understand her cutting - her painting was such a healthy way for her to release her emotions, to let out everything that was ready to burst. But sometimes, she didn't have access to her paint. Sometimes, the emotions that were ready to burst came upon her so suddenly and so strongly, that she didn't have time to get it down on paper. And when those feelings were too overwhelmingly strong, she turned to cutting. I do wish Carolyn had explained some of the coping mechanisms Kendra could use instead of cutting, but that was glazed over pretty quickly which was disappointing.Actually, Scars' entire ending was glazed over pretty quickly. As Kendra finally remembers who her abuser is, and everything unfolds, we're suddenly left with a happy-go-lucky girl who has her whole life in front of her. She seems to have released any and all resentment for both her abuser and her parents, her art is selling and she has finally received her mother's approval for it, she's thriving in therapy and her relationship with Meghan is going strong. After everything this girl has gone through, I found the ending to be quite weak - especially considering who the abuser ended up being!In all, Scars was just an ok read for me. There were moments which truly stole my breath away - a couple scenes where Kendra was furiously painting, or suppressing the urge to cut - but they were pretty far and few between. I wish there had been more focus on her emotions over the abuse, and not the repercussions of remembering the abuse, and that her strained relationship with her mother had been better explained. I also wish the ending hadn't been so rushed, or painted so hopefully - not that I don't wish a survivor like Kendra happiness, but that a complete change in attitude so quickly seemed forced.Find this review, and more, on my blog Radiant Shadows