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YA Book Review of Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

Erin Stewart offers a compelling read about what happens when tragedy turns one teen’s life upside down—and how she finds the strength to keep going.

Parent Review: Scars Like Wings

When my daughter and I were selecting a book to review, the title Scars like Wings immediately caught my attention. I am a fan of the YA genre, and this particular title looked like it was right up my alley. Scars didn’t disappoint. 

This compelling story of Ava, a teenager who lost her parents and cousin in a fire, makes you second-guess any obstacle in your own life. She was an only child, and her cousin was her best friend. In one night, it was all taken away. Despite the love and attention of her aunt and uncle, Ava feels alone—a feeling we all have during the difficult times of our lives. 

Although she survived the fire, Ava spends the next year enduring numerous surgeries, not to mention stares from curious onlookers. She moves into her cousin’s old bedroom with her aunt and uncle, who are also struggling to recover from the loss of their daughter.

Though Ava has completed her schoolwork online since the event, she finally gives in to her aunt’s request to show up onsite for two consecutive weeks. Her journey to rejoin the living is intriguing. She meets a fellow burn victim in her new school. Both girls have scars, but Ava hides them and tries to blend in while the other actively flaunts hers with hot-pink compression sleeves. 

Scars Like Wings centers around the idea that all human beings have scars—some are just more visible than others. Ava’s journey shows us how not only to embrace them, but also leverage them to become the best version of ourselves. The ultimate lesson: to treat everyone, including ourselves, with compassion.

Shannon Hilmar is a mother of three teenagers and lives in Irvine, California.

Teen Review: Scars Like Wings

As a college student struggling with nothing more than what to wear each day and turning in assignments on time, I have a hard time empathizing with the main character in Scars Like Wings. Ava is a 16-year-old girl, an only child. She has lost both her parents and the comforting monotony of her everyday life when she was burned in a house fire that almost took her life.

While I can’t remotely relate to her experience, I do get her daily struggles and her feelings of discomfort as she works to fit in among unwelcoming high school cliques. I get how hard it is for her to participate in the things she is passionate about without worrying about judgment or retaliation. While Ava has a more difficult life than many can fathom, her desire to fit in and seem “normal” in the eyes of her peers makes her a relatable narrator.

In Scars Like Wings, author Erin Stewart also provokes deeper questions through her writing, forcing the reader to delve into their own thoughts and beliefs. At one point, Ava is told she is lucky to be alive,. She questions why it is lucky that she didn’t die alongside her parents and her cousin—because they are at peace and she isn’t. This forces the reader to deeply think about whether suffering is better than death.

In this impossible-to-put-down novel, Stewart highlights the complicated nature of forming relationships following difficult life circumstances. She also shows that any obstacle can be overcome with the help of friends and family. All in all, Scars Like Wings is a sweet, heartwarming tale of a girl attempting to find her “new normal”  and move forward in the midst of struggle.

Cassidy Hilmar is a 19-year-old sophomore at San Diego State University and is from Irvine, California. 

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