Scars Like Wings

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley and Underlined for providing me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

60% of Ava Lee's skin is covered in burns after she survived the fire that took both her parents and her cousin. A year after the fire, Ava's skin has begun to heal, but she's far from recovered. With that kind of plot synopsis, you expect a heavy book, and it is intense, but it isn't morbidly sad, like in a tragedy porn sense. The voice of Ava is strong throughout the book, and she tends to deflect her pain with sarcasm, so even at some of the more depressing parts, you might find yourself chuckling. What I found most meaningful about this book is that the road to recovery is messy, and none of the characters are perfect. Ava and Piper's journeys aren't smooth, Piper does a lot of messed up things, Ava is incredibly stubborn, but that's also what makes them so compelling. All the characters make mistakes, and even the so-called mean girls are given some nuance. 

This is a powerful book, but at the heart of the story, the things the characters go through aren't too different from everyone's high school experience, and that's what makes this book interesting.
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I was given an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I really liked the premise of this book. I think that we can all relate to having an identity crisis. This book explores what it's like to lose everything and recover from that, all while trying to figure out who you are.

The characters in this book are written beautifully. There were some heartbreaking moments that hit you right in your tear ducts. But there were also moments that were really heartwarming. I loved how emotional this book was and how it made me feel. 

This book is character and emotionally driven, which I personally really loved about it. All the characters have so much depth. They all have their fears and desires and setbacks and growth. I really loved that the story focused on their emotional stories and their emotional growth rather than any external conflict. Overall, this book is a really good read and it made me really emotionally invested in the characters' stories. 

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Scars Like Wings is a beautiful and heart breaking young adult novel that deals with the "after" of a trauma. The voice was moving, and I found the pacing to work well for the novel.
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I received an advanced digital copy of this book from the author, Random House Children's and Thanks to all for the opportunity to read and review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Scars Like Wings is deals with the "after" and does it beautifully. A heart moving read.

5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended.
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TW: Burn survivor story and flashbacks, Suicide Attempt

Based on her friend who has dealt with what Ava has dealt with, Erin Stewart gives us a glimpse into the life of a burn survivor. Ava has been through a traumatic experience in her life, one that has haunted her since the day it happened. Ava lost both her parents and her cousin Sara in a house fire. Fortunately, Ava made it out alive, however, she had 60% of her body burned which resulted in 19 surgeries. Ava lives with her Aunt Cora and her uncle Glenn. They have provided for Ava and cared for her ever since their daughter Sara died. Ava attends a support group for burn survivors and she meets Piper. They start forming a bond and pretty soon Ava starts school and meets Asad. Ava soon gets wind of drama club and Piper and Asad convinces Ava to join them. After all Ava has an amazing voice and was active at her previous school's drama club as well. 
Of course, with every new school comes new drama, new romances, and new personalities. Kenzie is your typical drama queen who enjoys being a mean girl to everyone, especially when it comes to Ava and Piper. Ava soon learns that Piper was the one responsible for the car accident that caused Piper to be in a wheelchair because of a drunken mistake. Then there's Asad whose a delight, and Ava agrees. She realizes she likes Asad and hopes he feels the same way about her. 
Overall I really enjoyed this book. It really is emotional and takes you on a roller coaster of emotions. This book teaches you about empathy, friendships, self-love, and being a survivor.
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I’m not typically a YA reader but I felt for each and every character in this book. I cried. I laughed. I appreciated the snark. I would absolutely recommend this book to my friends.
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From the start I knew I was going to love this, you could just tell from the writing style. This story follows a young girl named Ava who lived a completely happy, normal life until a fire took her parents and cousin away from well as her identity. Her face and body are badly burned beyond reconstruction, despite her many surgeries. Told through her narrative, her voice is so crisp and clear you get a feel for her from page one and I loved her. She was so relatable and this book put me in her shoes, made me feel like this could have happened to me.

I was surprised with how people at her school treated her because that would have never happened where I'm from, but different places, different people, kids can be mean.

Regardless this book was wonderful. Would recommend!
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*Spoiler free, 3.5 stars*

I'd seen this book here and there, and it sounded like it would be good. It wasn't something that I would normally pick up, but I wanted to give it a try eventually because I've been wanting to branch out more. Plus, it sounded like I would enjoy it; I'm appreciating emotional books a lot more. Then, I saw so many rave reviews, on Goodreads of all places, so then I got really pumped for it. Trigger warnings: grief, attempted suicide, burn treatment

While I might not have the same raving feelings as everybody else, this book was really, really solid. It's not a book I would normally pick up, but I'm glad I did. It's a different type of story, with different types of characters, but I really enjoyed it. It had heartbreaking moments and it had moments that mended my heart and it had moments when my heart just existed because that's how life is sometimes.

Ava is finding her new normal. I think that's what I liked most about this book. It's a book about her realizing that finding a new normal is alright. She can exist as she is. I personally don't think she found her inner strength. I think she realized the strength she had all along. It was always there inside of her, and she used in ways she didn't realize, but it was there. She's strong in her own way and on her own terms.

The characters were really, really well done. They practically pop off the page. The side characters, Piper and Asad, were so well developed. Even the minor characters had so much depth to them. They all have their own problems and struggles and pain. They're all trying to work through it in the ways they know how. I liked that it was different and looked different for each of them. I didn't expect to like Piper as much as I did. She tries to cover her pain by being as loud and as out there as possible. Her journey might have been on the sidelines, but she was such a lively and amazing character.

There is a lot of emotional growth in this book. Ava and Piper change so much from the beginning. They grow and they have setbacks and they grow some more. Despite this,  I wish more focus would have been on their emotional turmoil. I felt like a lot of focus was on top layer of their emotional stories. The feelings that they feel all the time, the struggles they carry day to day, and how they cope to just make it through. A lot hides under that, and it's very evident from what happens at the end of the book. Maybe some stuff just flew over my head! Personally, I would have liked more focus on the deeper feelings. But then again, none of the characters what to acknowledge that part of them, which I can relate to. I dunno, I just felt like there could have been more there.

Overall, this was a very solid book. It was beautifully written. Emotional development was subtle, but it happens. That's one of the things I liked the most. It was a process. This book was raw and real. It had Broadway musicals and it had scenes that made it so easy to cry. It was just really real.
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This was SUCH A GOOD BOOK. I really loved Ava and her journey to accepting herself and her scars and finding her place on the stage and her voice once again.  Ava was a really great protagonist, and I really liked the deep look at her burn scars and everything she had been through and portraying all the different kinds of burn survivors in the support group. 

I really liked Piper and how she brought Ava out of her shell and how the two of them learned how to live again together and how they were there for one another. I was annoyed with a lot of things Piper did, but I can see where she was coming from, how she was hurting, how she felt she didn't have anyone who understood.

Asad was probably my favorite character and I love how kind and sweet and understanding he always was, how he never once looked at Ava like she was different, how he was always there for her, how great and amazing he always was. I am a little (LOT) peeved that he and Ava didn't end up together. I thought it was a little too hurtful for Ava to get rejected like that when she was finally coming to believe she could live her life again. Plus, I just really loved that Asad was Pakistani (as I am as well) and I really wanted him to be the love interest. 

But anyways, this was an amazing book and I loved it and it was so hopeful and incredible and I can't recommend it enough 
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Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn't need a mirror to know what she looks like--she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her. A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be "normal" again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends--no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever. But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn't have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn't afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she's going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.

Wow! Just wow. This was so amazing, once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down! I almost started crying in the middle of the cafe like four times. This was powerful and emotional, all of the characters were well-developed, the burn information seemed well-researched. I do think there should be some sort of warning for the attempted suicide, though.

*Book received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
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I didn't know what this book was about, but I knew it was recommended for fans of Kathleen Glasgow. So I was in. This book exceeded all expectations. In short, it is about Ava, a teenager who survived a terrible fire and was left with scars all over her face and body, learning how to survive.  

Have you ever felt like you were on the outside? That people judged you for your appearance before they even gave you a chance? Have you ever felt drawn into the darkness and lost your will to continue? That's exacty how Ava feels. After starting at a new school, she is judged and bullied for her scars right off the bat. No one will give her a chance, until Piper. Piper, a fellow burn survivor is dealing with her own darkness and struggles, but helps Ava work through her own. 

Scars Like Wings will speak to anyone who has ever felt left out. Who has ever felt like society has looked at them and said "you don't belong". It's for anyone who has been through something they didn't think they would make it out of. There are words and phrases and stories within these pages that will resonate with every single person. It's okay to struggle, it's okay to lose your will to fight sometimes, but it's not okay to give up on yourself or your journey. Learn when to ask for help. Our journeys, struggles and scars make us unique and they are what provide us with the courage and the power to continue. 

Scars Like Wings takes big topics and makes them relatable. Erin Stewart's writing style is nevery flowery or excessive. It is just right and the emotions and sarcasm come through seamlessly. There are no good and bad guys in this novel. Each character is complex and full of feeling and the ending of this is so full of hope and raw emotion that I may or may not have cried. (I know, no one is surprised).

Big ideas aside, there are also so many musical references that it made my heart sing. She also breifly tackles some stereotypes about tattoos and tattoo artists and explains the beauty in them, instead of the dangerous stigma that surrounds them sometimes. I also love that Ava didn't need someone to fawn and coo over her while calling her "beautiful" to see the beauty in herself. 

In short, this book is wonderful with complex characters and an important message. It is a beautiful debut and I look forward to reading Erin Stewart's next story.
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I had zero expectations for this book, and it blew me away.  What a fantastic debut.

Scars Like Wings combines so many of the things I enjoy in contemporaries, and attached them to an amazing girl and an important topic.  How many times have we judged people by their outside, or thought less of them because of some sort of difference that makes us, for no good reason, feel uncomfortable? Difference is not something people like to talk about.  Because we all want to believe we have no unconscious bias and that we are all perfect humans.

Ava is the sole survivor of a fire that killed in her parents and her cousin.  After a year, she has reached the point where she can go back to school… and that’s terrifying.  Ava is acutely aware of her appearance and tuned to the way people react to her.  She decides, before walking in the door, it will be a nightmare.  Ava’s transformation is fantastic in this book.  I really appreciate the emphasis on “not okay”.  As in… things are not okay, but lets find the “new normal”.

One of the things that stuck out to me the most was the twisting and turning of the relationships.  In Scars Like Wings, there’s no villains and no heroes.  I really enjoyed the complexity of all the characters and that the relationships were not just surface-deep.  There were multiple stories being told here, and it was great.

The writing style is also very good.  Erin Stewart is never preachy.  She’s not flowery.  The characters’ sarcasm comes through easily, without excessive (exhaustive) interpretation.  It was really easy to get into the flow of this one.  I read it in one sitting, over a couple of hours.  It was a quick read that changed its tone subtly and made you love ALL the characters.  All of them.  Even the ones you thought you were supposed to hate at the beginning.

Scars Like Wings takes a topic most of us are uncomfortable with a makes it vulnerable and tangible.  Even if you have not experienced severe physical trauma, you can relate to the flood of Ava’s raw emotions.  The end was so filled with hope and determination that I teared up a little.  I loved it.

Some small asides:  I really liked all the Broadway musical references!  I was totally obsessed with Broadway musicals at Ava’s age and I’m pretty sure I got all the references and am quite pleased.  I also liked that Ava didn’t need someone to call her “beautiful” to find worth in herself.  And I really like the bold simplicity of the cover.

In short – great book, great characters, great debut.  I’ll be watching for Erin Stewart’s next story.
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FIRST LINE: "One year after the fire, my doctor removes my mask and tells me to get a life."

THE STORY: What's it like to lose everything you love including yourself? 16 year old Ava survived a fire that left her alone and disfigured. How she faces trying to find a new normal is heartbreaking and inspiring. This is an amazing view into what burn survivors live through, but then all of us have scars, although some aren't as visible.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I was immediately drawn into the story by the awful facts of Ava's situation. At first she turns away from everyone but, forced to go back to high school, she encounters and makes friends with Piper and Asad.

"For each species on the planet, finding this community is not a luxury; it's an essential element of survival."

I loved the social media aspects and the musical theater references. Ava makes some bad decisions that worried me, but these issues were overcome by others who love her enough to help her find appropriate outcomes. Ava's world will never again be what it was before the fire but there is a new normal that is worth living.

BOTTOM LINE: Well written, plotted, and paced, this debut novel is worthy of the attention it has garnered. Although the story is about teenagers, I think anyone can read and take away a message of hope.

Disclaimer: A copy of Scars Like Wings was provided to me by Delacorte Press/Net Galley for an honest review.
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One of the most touching and hardest books I’ve read so far this year. It made me laugh and cry and sometimes both at the same time. A fantastic read.
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Just finished SCARS LIKE WINGS and WOW did it hit me in the feels. It’s inspirational (MC Ava would really hate that I said that), evocative, and REAL. Anyone can see themselves in Ava and Piper, and that's part of the magic behind the story. Author Erin Stewart shows every single reader that you’re more than your body and other people’s perceptions of you, and sometimes the internal scars are the hardest ones to see AND the hardest ones to heal. Every high school ELA classroom needs this story. I highly recommend!
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I don't know how I can express how much I loved this book in a review. Suffice it to say that this book is exceptional in every way. Mild spoilers follow.

Ava is an amazing main character. She would hate to hear me describe her as an inspiration, so I won't. What makes her so wonderful is that she isn't perfect. She's multifaceted with tons of thoughts and feelings that the author makes known to the reader. She is an excellent narrator, and always felt realistic to me.

Piper is really something. I liked that the main theme of this book is the friendship between her and Ava. It's really meaningful, much more so than the insipid YA instalove that happens in too many books. These girls have both been through hell and they support each other in the best way. There sure is a lot of drama, without going into spoilers, but I was really happy with how the book ended.

My heart broke for Ava as she struggled to come to terms with how she looks. The saddest part is how she doesn't recognize herself when she looks in the mirror. She doesn't just think she's ugly, she feels like she's lost everything. Her journey in support group is super well written, because she starts off skeptical but ends up genuinely working hard and growing. This is a nuanced and encouraging portrayal of therapy, and I'm so glad the author did it like this. Of course, I have no idea what it's like to be in Ava's position, but I was glad to see an honest discussion of the healing process. 

This book genuinely made me cry when reading about how Ava and Cora, her aunt, are both dealing with loss. Ava lost her parents and Cora lost her daughter. The relationship between Ava and her aunt and uncle is beautifully written and has a lot of heart. Honestly, this book put me through the emotional wringer. I read it in less than 24 hours which is remarkable these days for me. This is a truly exceptional addition to the YA world and I can't recommend it enough.

TW: suicide attempt, severe bullying, graphic depictions of burn treatment in the hospital and a surgery.

***I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much, NetGalley, for the privilege of reading this book early.***
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I received a copy of SCARS LIKE WINGS on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the publisher and author.

FIVE stars and here’s why:

The book drew me in from the get-go. The author, Erin Stewart, has a beautifully written story here that is very hard to put down. Total book hangover. Each person experiences life and death and tragedy in their own unique way. The author portrayed emotionally raw characters who are dealing with death and anxiety in different ways. I found it to be a real page-turner, but I work with teens, so I found that Ms. Stewart really captured the essence of what it’s like to lose someone near and dear to one’s heart; particularly at that age when everything is so vibrant and fresh and emotional. I fell in love with the story and rooted for the characters. I realize it’s one of these stories that does not necessarily have to have a happily ever after tied up in a big red bow. Having said that, however, it’s one of these stories that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. Highly recommend.
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I honestly feel kind of bad being the first person who didn't really like Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart. And I was initially really excited and thrilled to get a chance to read it, but somewhere along the way I just found myself quickly losing interest both in the character and in the story. Scars Like Wings follows a teenager, Ava, through the aftermath of experiencing the trauma of a fire that not only left her world in upheaval as she deals with the mental damage such an event causes and the struggle to work through and accept her injuries, she deals with the loss of her parents and cousin. Everything about Ava's life has changed as a result of her burns; from her outward appearance to the way she spends her days. Though the book begins long after she has worked through much of her recovery, with its focus more on her mental healing rather than her physical healing, so much of what she faces seems to continually be a fight that stands as a testament to her own inner strength.

And I just didn't like it. I grew annoyed with the characters and I grew bored with the story. Perhaps the only character in the whole novel I felt any connection to enough to like as a person was Asad. And while I've never had to deal, personally, with much of what Ava goes through I feel as though I just wanted her to be a more likable character. And this isn't to demean her struggle in any way shape or form. I couldn't begin to fathom how my life would change if I were in her shoes. The only thing Ava and I really have in common lies in our depression, so that aspect I did understand to an extent. But I think the truth of the matter is that I don't want to read about depressed people who take it out on those around them. I've never been the kind of person to see it as okay to lash out, despite my depression, and while I know it is how some cope it bugged me immensely about Ava and infuriated me about Piper.

So, what I think my opinion on Scars Like Wings really boiled down to in the end was the fact that I couldn't bring myself to like any of the characters. Kenzie was awful, Cora was very "meh," Piper was awful, Ava was frustrating, and all the other side characters--again, minus Asad--were so dull that I barely remember them. And maybe we can chock it up to the fact that the bitterness within the traumatized characters was not something I felt comfortable reading because, on a personal level, I can't fathom being that awful to those around you simply because of the hurt you went through, but I just didn't like this book. I don't think it was horrendously terrible and it was definitely researched and written well. It just wasn't for me.

I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Is it a coincidence that I was reading some of Frankenstein while also reading this?
You hear of burn survivors in the news...usually happens in a house just never hear anything about them after that. The pain, grafting, feeling like a monster...this is how Ava feels. She loses her parents and cousin in the fire. Her aunt and uncle take care of her, but she isn't a replacement for their daughter. Over a year later, Ava goes back to school. Okay, it's not so bad, especially after she meets Piper. Piper is loud, doesn't care about what other people think and has secrets of her own.

My hear broke near the end. I didn't expect that one part with the boy...I had really thought him and know...well..nope...

If I ever met a burn survivor, I would not make fun of them, they're still a human, they have feelings, they may look different, but we all have our scars...
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Erin Stewart has done an amazing job with a degree of success previously achieved by only the masters. 
Ava Lee is a 16 year old girl who is the sole survivor of a savage fire, apocalyptic in that it destroyed her entire life; it destroyed her home, killing both of her parents and her best friend/cousin. It has also destroyed her face and scarred over 60% of her body. Ava has survived a year full of surgeries and skin grafts, leaving multi-colored, swollen patchwork scars all over her face and body. But the ugliness doesnt stop there. Ava is living with her dead cousin's parents, in her dead cousin's room, with no friends, no school, no hope.  The only consistencies in her life are more doctors, more guilt, and the repeatedly horrified gawking of strangers.  As the book opens, Ava is literally a burned out shell of her former self.
Let me tell you why I love this book so much.
1. Characterization above and beyond what you would expect from YA. Even minor characters are complex, fresh, breathing life and word-weaving spells of infinite variation. Every character has their own voice, tempo, and word choice (aka colloquialisms) expressing not only their ethnicity, but also gender, and generational differences. Most importantly, Stewart has avoided the standard hee-hee YA characters. 
2. Plot: Along with a host of intricate protagonists in Ava, Piper and Asad.. there are many, many plot twists that you could not have seen coming.: Stewart has chosen an unusual storyline and we would do well to soak it in. A survivor may not want to be an "Inspiration!" or a "Hero!" They don't know what to do with your pity or your curiosity or your adoration. They just want to be normal, but there is no normal. It's all gone.
 3. Theme. Yes, it's YA. Which means the theme is "coming of age" which is lit-speak for going through a whole raft of sh*t and coming out the other side. Scars Like Wings does give us a happy ending, but it also tantalizes us with a tragic ending which is ever-present, a threatening reminder of the knife's edge dividing life and death. 
Pay attention to this book. Like Busta Rhymes says, "If you dont know, now you know."
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