Picking up from where the William Morris YA debut finalist The Scar Boys (2014) left off, this compact and fluidly written realistic novel, set in the late 1980s, follows the Scar Boys band up to making their first record and beyond.
Told chronologically, in an interview format, by guitarist Harry, drummer Richie, and, mostly, bassist Cheyenne, the novel starts with a brief catchup on the original story and then moves forward. The focus is on the personal and social issues of these band members as they all struggle to deal with fourth member Johnny’s leg amputation. Though Johnny is the heart of the band, his words are notably absent from the narrative, giving an ominous foreshadowing. Music takes more of a background role this time, and though some song lyrics are thrown in, like most song lyrics they feel clumsy and trite without music.
The voices of the three narrators/interviewees are not particularly distinct, though the band members are all distinct characters, only bonded by their love and need of making music. Burn victim Harry, the focus of the earlier novel, takes more of a backseat with the spotlight now on Cheyenne. She suffers a traumatic loss early on, and reaches out to drugs, alcohol and casual sex to relieve her emotional pain, becoming the ‘scar girl’ of the title, though her scars are internal unlike Harry’s.
The setting seems less well-realized than in the first book. A few period details mark this out as being in the 80s – phone booths, clothing and no Internet – but other than that these teens and their issues could be contemporary (of course, that makes it more relatable).
Though this seems a tad less fresh than the original, and the melodrama of the ending is a little jarring, fans of The Scar Boys will not be disappointed with this sequel.