The Scar Boys

  • Interest Level: Grade 9 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 9

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world . . . even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay—to “help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores”—Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life. The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality. The second defining moment: the day in eighth grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry’s description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he’s looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

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Interest Level Grade 9 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 9
Genre Young Adult
Category Diverse Books: Physical Disability & Illness, Diversity, SEL: A Self-Awareness, SEL: B Self-Management, SEL: C Social Awareness, SEL: D Relationship Skills, Social Emotional Learning
Copyright 2014
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Lab ®
Language English
Number of Pages 256
Publication Date 2014-01-01
Reading Counts! Level 6.3
Reading Counts! Points 11.0
Text Type Fiction
BISACS YAF058220, YAF047030, YAF058120
Dewey [Fic]
Dimensions 5.5 x 8.25
Lexile 910
ATOS Reading Level 6.1
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 165238
Accelerated Reader® Points 8.0
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews

Author: Len Vlahos

Len Vlahos has held leadership positions with the American Booksellers Association and Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and co-owns The Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, CO. His novel The Scar Boys was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award.


  • Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards Master List, Long-listed, 2016
  • William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist, Commended, 2016
  • Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2015
  • YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, Winner, 2015
  • Tayshas Reading List, Winner, 2014
  • Volunteer State Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2014
  • Kids’ Indie Next List (ABA) Top Ten, Winner, 2014
  • Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Readers Nominee, Nominated, 2014


Library Media Connection

“[A]n uplifting novel for students who prefer thought-provoking contemporary realistic fiction.” —Library Media Connection

The New York Times Book Review

“Playing and touring demand creativity and commitment, forcing the Scar Boys — actually three guys and a girl — to come of age in this wry, stylish tale.” —The New York Times


“Harry’s obsession with punk music will appeal to music lovers, while his journey to accept himself for who he is—scarred face and all—is one that will likely resonate with any teen trying to find his way in the world.” —Booklist

School Library Journal

“Vlahos’s narrative flows easily and rings true….Distinguished in every way.” —starred, School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly

“Harry’s trajectory loosely mirrors Vlahos’s time as the guitarist for a touring punk/pop band, so details like how to cut a record, land a gig at the now-defunct club CBGB…or rework a tour when the van breaks down strongly resonate.” —Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

“Etches its way onto the heart and leaves a mark.” —Kirkus Reviews