Title: Veil of Scars
Author: J.R. Gray
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 100 Pages
At a Glance: Veil of Scars is a single sitting read, compelling and well told.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Steven is tall, dark, and damaged. He doesn’t let anyone close, comfortable on the outside of normal life where he can hide his scars behind a wall so high that nothing gets through…except them. Despite a childhood marred with black and blue, he’s survived and moved in with his two best friends, Sam and Charlie.
Life should get better, but it was Sam who held him when the dark threatened to swallow him whole, Sam who gave him a place that felt like home, and Sam who knew every scar and every broken place.
And it’s all been taken away with Charlie sharing Sam’s bed.
Without his former comfort, Steven realizes what’s been hiding in the deep corners of his heart, and the truth sinks him like a weight. He’s in love with one or maybe both of his roommates. Navigating unrequited love tears Steven apart and brings him to the precipice, and he has to choose: his feelings or Sam’s…and Charlie’s?
Review: Eighteen-year-old Harvard freshman, Steven, is a character who reads like a man standing on the outside always looking in on life. And it seems, sometimes, he prefers it that way. Surviving a childhood marred by a physically abusive father has left him with not only trust issues but an inability to allow anyone, save for his roommates and best friends, Sam and Charlie, close to him in any sort of meaningful way.
Veil of Scars, as it turns out, is the perfect title for this short novel, as it’s the psychological scars Steven brought forward into adulthood that served not only to construct and solidify his close bond with Sam but prevented him from understanding what it is about himself that feels wrong and keeps him on the fringes of a deeper connection with anyone, a connection such as the one Sam and Charlie have with each other. Steven is searching for an elusive sense of “normalcy”, and is trying, with a sense of both desperation and defeat, to find a label that fits his lack of physical desire as aptly as “introvert” describes his personality.
The emotional connection J.R. Gray constructs for readers throughout this story is in Steven’s struggle to understand and then accept he’s in love with Sam, even when he knows Sam’s very much in love with Charlie and can never be more than a friend. The greater design in the construct, however, is Steven’s certainty he’s in some way wired wrong because within his id, the emotional concepts of love and physical desire don’t go hand-in-hand. He works to come to terms with his love for Sam, but it’s the sexual part of the equation that leaves him confused and combing the internet in search of a label that fits him, one which also shows him that somewhere he fits in.
Gray layers Steven’s pain and sadness in a pattern of horrific childhood memories, confusion, guilt, and ultimately, the realization his love for Sam may come at an awful price. He could lose Sam or Charlie, more likely both, and no matter his feelings, those are outcomes he isn’t willing to risk. The substance of this story exists in the understanding that sexuality and gender aren’t a black and white binary, that love and sex are sometimes mutually exclusive, and that as abnormal as Steven believes he is, he isn’t. In the end, and perhaps most importantly, there is the realization that love and relationships of all shapes and sizes take patience and work, and there are no clear cut answers to the myriad opaque questions raised within this story nor in life.
Veil of Scars is a single sitting read, compelling and well told, which delves into the complex and complicated realms of sexuality in an honest and touching way.
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