Category Archives: YA

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

reviewed by Elvira Sanchez Kisser, Woodburn Public Library


A story told in a form of a college personal essay about the  journey of “Harry,” Harbinger Robert Francis Jones, the kid who was almost struck by lighting, his struggles to live with his scars, his trouble finding friendship, and  eventually learning to find solace in music. Harry navigates through school being bullied because of his scars and lives a life of solitude. Until the day comes when he is befriended by Johnny, the good looking athlete, who becomes his first friend and teaches him about friendship, betrayal, and acceptance. Even though the idea of starting a band wasn’t his, Harry learns to find salvation and confidence through creating and performing music which changes him forever.
Harry’s story is told through a series of short chapters with song headings providing a theme and a great soundtrack for those who know the music. The story is set in the 1980’s so the music will probably not be familiar to most teens of this generation, given that many are fairly obscure songs to begin with. Those that are interested in music may take the time to look up the music online, but I fear for many they will ignore the references. Though the story has many musical references, the story is about Harry living with his physical and emotional scars from being burned as a child and learning how others react to him, such as his dad calling him a “toaster”. Vlahos peppers his writing with geeky references to Star Wars and Star Trek, decision making lists, and fantasy scenarios that bring a lightheartedness to some of the more serious scenes, such as getting bullied or getting over a broken heart. Overall an engaging story for teens and adults alike that will provide a glimpse of why people form bands and what music can mean for these people.

Crass Capitalism Alert!!

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith is the latest in the a new posting series on examples of  product placement in young adult novels. It’s my way of creating a running tally of incidents as I come across them while reading young adult novels.

I found Starbucks making their first appearance on page 9 used by Connor making a request to Jack, “Bring me a Starbucks.” I do wonder what Jack brought back,  not a Double Mocha Frapp with no whip or a Double non-fat vanilla soy latte? Such a blatant misuse of the word SCREAMS product placement. To use the term in such a way isn’t even a slang term referring to the chain, like Buckies.

The second incidence in on page 32, when Jack notices two large (not Grande??) cups of black coffee from Starbucks. Though in both instances the removal of the chains lovely name would change nothing from the overall description or plotting of the story. So why is in necessary, to encourage teens to stop by their place and not any other of the myriad of coffee shops for their caffeinated bliss?

As for the rest of the book, I gave up on the read after it having to endure the forced advertisement and the feeling that the story was going to be trip down the Cuckoo Nest (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Normal Again” episode)

or the Dream Apocalypse (think Alice through the Looking Glass or Inception).

I decided that I would sit down with another book and enjoy my fair trade coffee :)