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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Scarred by Julia Hoban


Seven months ago on a rainy March night, Willow's parents drank too much wine at dinner and asked her to drive them home. But they never made it - Willow lost control of the car, and both of her parents were killed. Now seventeen, Willow is living with her older brother, who can barely speak to her. She has left behind her old home, friends, and school. But Willow has found a way to survive, to numb the new reality of her life: She is secretly cutting herself. And then she meets Guy, a boy as sensitive and complicated as she is. When Guy discovers Willow's secret, he pulls her out of the solitary world she's created for herself, and into a difficult, intense, and potentially life-changing relationship.


I loved this book. I thought the characterisation was amazing- Willow was a very realistic character, understandably sensitive and fragile with a severe addiction to cutting. At first I was wary about reading the book, because I thought it would be a clichéd emo-tale about an orphan who started cutting because she was depressed. However, the reason Willow gave for cutting was explained so fully, and so genuinely, that I could see where she was coming from. I didn’t agree, yes, but I could comprehend what made her do those terrible things to herself: to erase the emotional pain, the overwhelming grief, she focused on physical pain instead. As I’m sure many of you know, emotional pain can be extremely distressing and harmful. By cutting, Willow was anaesthetising these emotions, letting the physical pain flood herself instead.

Guy was an extremely likeable character. I loved all scenes between him and Willow, his unusual (for a guy) fondness for anthropology and classics, his exceptional kindness, and his determination. They really did fit together perfectly, two halves of a circle, to use a cliché. Their similarities made them a realistic teenage couple, with that added element of maturity and understanding.

Some other characters were fleshed out as well: David, Willow’s brother in just his twenties, put under the burden of supporting his wife, his baby and now his seventeen-year-old sister, while also having to cope with the grief of losing his parents; each person in the small group of friends introduced to Willow, although having relatively small parts, had a distinct personality, examples being Lottie, Chloe and Andy. There wasn't enough of Adrian to form a clear portrait in my mind. Furthermore, Cathy, David’s wife, seemed sweet and kind but her appearances were brief so she was just a sketch of a character. However, less Cathy-time meant more scenes between Willow and Guy so I’m not really complaining.

The prose was fluid- I especially liked the use of third-person present tense. It was very effective, because Willow’s emotions were heightened by the use of present tense, and third-person meant that the prose was more poetic and there was more showing than telling, which suited the plot. The reasons as to why Willow cut were revealed bit by bit, rather than in huge chunks which would have spoiled the narrative and made the book less intriguing. Stark imagery was used which heightened the sensation of cutting, and the bleakness surrounding it.

Ah yes, one complaint: over-use of the word 'convulsively.' However, that is a very small, very inane criticism and I probably just noticed it because I read the book in one sitting.

I wouldn't describe Scarred as a book about cutting. I would describe this as a book about a determined boy and a fragile girl, and how love, friendship and family can provide the strength to get through even the most difficult of hardships, in this case, Willow being unable to forgive herself for something that was never her fault. Overall, a beautifully written story with well-developed characters.

Rating: 5/5


  1. Great review! I read this one when it first came out and thought it was amazing because of the characters and Hoban's writing.

  2. Wow amazing review! At first I didn't recognize it because of the different title and cover. I agree that Guy was very likable ;D

  3. I recently read a glowing review of Willow, and this post has convinced me that I want to read this book, too. Both these books sound heart-wrenching but excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed your review. You're a terrific writer!

  4. Awesome review!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Although my TBR list is already overflowing, I'm gonna have to add this onto the list. Plus, the cover is pretty!

    Love, Hannah

  5. Nice review- this looks really powerful! I need to move it up in my TBR :)

  6. Great review, will look into getting this book!!