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January 22, 2018

Review: 22 Scars by C.M. North

by Donna Huber

Girl Who Reads's features writer C. M. North has a new book out. 22 Scars is an edgy, character-driven story focused on the relationships affected by mental illness.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

22 Scars
October 2017; 978-1546705949
ebook, print (288 pages); YA, family life
The story focuses on teenager Amy who is depressed. She cuts herself and at times has suicidal thoughts. She has a group of friends she hangs out with, but it is Beth who really cares about her. Amy's parents are in a loveless and unhealthy relationship and is a major source of Amy's unhappiness.

I felt North really experimented with the storytelling style in this book. There is a mix of 3rd-person and 1st-person narration. There is a hand full of people whose chapters are told in 1st person - mostly the chapters from Beth's perspective though towards the end a few other characters tell the story. I felt that there were 2 different 3rd-person narrators - one for the chapters focused on the Amy and another for the he/she chapters.

The 3rd person narration was off-putting for me. Amy's chapters were very sterile, lacked emotion. It felt like I was reading a script instead of a novel. There was limited dialogue in these chapters. The sentences were often short and choppy. At times it even felt like I was reading a list of notes or outline points. These chapters gave us insight into Amy's home life and should have connected the reader with the character, but for me, they failed to do that.

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The chapters that I refer to as the 'he/she' chapters (because the two focus characters are never named and only pronouns are used to identify them) had more the typical 3rd-person narration. The constant he/him, she/her references annoyed me a bit, especially when there were same gender characters in the chapters. I also don't know the point of never giving these characters names. They are in a relationship; do they never call each other by name? Though there is limited dialogue in these chapters too, so the reader might not have been privy to those conversations. I guessed pretty early on who these two characters were.

The premise of the story made this seem like my type of book, and I was really craving a troubled teenager story. Unfortunately, the execution left me wanting. I found it difficult to really care about the character of Amy; I didn't feel a connection to her. In a character-driven novel, I expect to connect with the characters. I also think I would have preferred if the plot had stuck with environment (the relationship her parents have and its impact on Amy's life) and genetics being the root of Amy's mental illness as I feel too few books focus on it. Throwing in tragedy and trauma near the end of the story felt like an 'oh, wait. I need to explain the cause of her depression' plot twist.

The swapping of narration styles through the novel was sometimes jarring, particularly early on. At times I felt like I was reading 3 different novels mashed into one.

While reading the novel, I kept thinking to myself that this is like an edgy indie film that viewers either really love or really hate. The polarized reviews on Goodreads (that I looked at after finishing the book) lends truth to my prediction.

I love the columns North writes for this site. They are always detailed and well-thought out and there are glimpses of this within the pages of 22 Scars. I wondered if there was some larger form of art that I was missing (I typically don't watch edgy indie films because I don't get the art form statement of them). If you are looking for something a bit different than the mainstream novel, then definitely give this novel a try.

Buy 22 Scars at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. She reads most genres, but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances. 

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