Starred review from School Library Journal (May 1st issue)

Kendra, fifteen, hasn’t felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse, especially because she still can’t remember the most important detail-her abuser’s identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life.

To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it’s her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who’s becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra’s abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences. Scars is the unforgettable story of one girl’s frightening path to the truth.

Available new in audiobook, used in hardcover and print editions (the publisher went under). It’s also been translated into Slovenia.

Awards and Nominations

2010 Governor General Literary Award Finalist; #1 in YALSA’s Top 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (2011); ALA’s 2011 Rainbow Project List (LGBT recommended books); 2011 SCBWI Crystal Kite Finalist; Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance (Fall 2012). SCARS was also nominated for the 2011 ALA Stonewall Book Award, 2011 Independent Literary Awards (LGBT), and the 2011 Elliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award.

More About SCARS & Self-Harm

Many teens secretly self-harm; it is often a painful, hidden issue. I have drawn on my personal experience of self-harm, sexual abuse, and trauma/dissociation, to offer an insider perspective in SCARS. It’s a book I care deeply about, and I’m hoping you’ll pick it up.

I show Kendra cutting for many of the same reasons that I have—-to relieve unbearable emotional pain; to escape or suppress abuse memories and related overwhelming emotion; to not kill herself; to shut herself up; to try to feel better; to silently cry out for help; and to punish herself. It is my arm, my scars, on the cover of SCARS. Although cutting hurt me, it also helped me survive.

If you know someone who’s used self-harm, or you’ve hurt yourself, I hope you’ll read my Reasons Not To Hurt Yourself which you can download as a free PDF. You may also want to download Helpful Responses To Someone Who’s Self-HarmedAlternatives To Self-Harm; and How To Stop Self-Harming.

SCARS Bonus Material

Reasons Not to Hurt Yourself

Read Reasons Not To Hurt Yourself online.

Download or print it as:

a PDF with cloud background

a plain text PDF.

SCARS Postcard Bonus Short Story

Download it as a PDF 
or a Word doc

SCARS Teaching & Discussion Guide

Download your free SCARS Teaching & Discussion Guide in:


Tips on Dealing with Self-Harm

View articles here.

Self-Harm in NOT Trendy

Read the article here.

Watch the book trailer:

Cheryl Rainfield on SCARS being challenged & the need for “dark” books. Banned Books.

Watch my It Gets Better video–for LGBTQ youth, and anyone thinking of suicide.

Cheryl Rainfield on Banned Books:

The Sadness Of Banned Books:A poem by Cheryl Rainfield

Cheryl Rainfield, author of YA novel Scars on self-harm, sexual abuse, & being queer, interviewed on DayTime Toronto Sept 09, 2010.


“Whatever their life experience, [teens] will be on the edge of their seats, rooting for Kendra to unravel the mystery that shadows her life. This is one heck of a good book!”
-School Library Journal (starred review)

“Emotions ring true in this thriller/survivor story. …a raw and honest story.”
– Publisher’s Weekly

“Rainfield writes with great empathy and compassion as she tells Kendra’s story. Kendra’s pain is palpable, and the descriptions of her cutting are graphic. … Kendra’s relationship with Meghan also is very well done. As Kendra begins to trust Meghan and fall in love with her, she begins to open up and share more with people who can help her. It is clear that Rainfield has firsthand knowledge of these topics, and she handles them deftly.”
– Lynn Evarts, VOYA

Scars depicts the daily pain a survivor of sexual abuse must face. Cheryl Rainfield paints the horror of ritual abuse through both Kendra’s art and cutting. The brutality of Kendra’s cutting wrenches at your heart wishing you could take away her anguish. Rainfield’s refusal to hold anything back brings to light a story that can, perhaps, save a life. With Scars, she makes it known that a survivor can find happiness again.”
– Inderjit Deogun, CM Magazine (4 stars)


“SCARS is a brave novel, a read-in-one-sitting-except-when-you-have-to-put-it-down-to-breathe novel.”

Ellen Hopkins, author of Burned, a National Book Award nominee and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and Glass, an ALA Top Ten Book for Young Adults

“SCARS is a painful and well told story, obviously written with the heart’s blood of the author. It could prove to be a life-saver for other young victims of abuse and self-harm.”
Lois Duncan, Margaret A. Edwards Award-winning author of Killing Mr. Griffin and I Know What You Did Last Summer

“SCARS is the ‘must’ read for any teen. I couldn’t put it down.”
Gail Giles, author of Right Behind You, a 2009 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

“Rainfield’s gripping, chillingly honest account of an abused teen’s fight to survive her history, and its consequent self-harm, is written with such compassion and empathy that this is ultimately a story of hope.”
Wendy Orr, author of Peeling the Onion

“SCARS is a beautifully written, deeply compassionate story of sexual abuse, cutting, and the process of recovery from both. I expected a harsh, bitter rage, but instead found a warm, embracing voice. Anger is there, yes, along with terror, but what a surprise to read such an uplifting book about such devastating issues! Those who have been victims will find a realistic portrayal of abuse and self-harm, but also a heartfelt understanding and an encouraging journey toward healing. Others will simply be glad they read this book and learned so much from such a generous teacher.”
-Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, author of TargetGone, and A Fast and Brutal Wing

“SCARS is an engrossing, frightening, suspenseful and utterly realistic portrayal of cutting as a girl’s outlet to deal with the horror of sexual abuse. Rainfield beautifully captures the power of redemptive love required of survivors to move beyond trauma to inner strength and peace. A must-read for teens and those who care deeply about them.”
Julie Anne Peters, author of LunaRage: A Love Story, and By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead

“A gripping fast-paced young adult novel that explores the complex dynamics that have led to an epidemic of cutting and self-injury. A realistic, yet hopeful read, SCARS provides young people with a powerful role model in 15-year-old Kendra Marshall–a struggling abuse survivor who emerges at the novel’s end having found strength, community and a pathway to healing.”
Laura Davis, co-author of The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, 20th Anniversary Edition

“An important and necessary book for young people struggling with abuse, cutting, sexual orientation and building a healthy life. We all need to see our lives reflected in the books we read. Cheryl Rainfield has made a meaningful contribution with SCARS. I hope this story reaches all the young people who need it.”
Ellen Bass, co-author of The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, 20th Anniversary Edition

“Kendra’s journey will tug your heartstrings and have you holding your breath at the same time. Cheryl Rainfield’s deeply emotional novel is a must read.”
Marlene Perez, author of Dead Is the New Black

Where To Buy


Audibook Format: (where your purchase also supports any indie bookstore you choose)

Barnes & Noble

Google Play Audible and CD Audible and CD Audible and CD

Audible USAudible Canada

Audiobooks Now, and more.

The publisher for SCARS went under. You can still buy print copies of SCARS used through some websites. The ebook format is no longer available.



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