REVIEW #51: “The Scarecrow and George C” by Mia Kerick (eARC)

Title: “The Scarecrow and George C.”

Author: Mia Kerick

Publishing Date: 3 June 2019

Pages (eBook): 214 pages

Synopsis (Goodreads):

“High school senior Van Liss is barely human. He thinks of himself as a scarecrow—ragged and unnerving, stuck, and destined to spend his life cold and alone. If he ever had feelings, they were stomped out long ago by his selfish mother and her lecherous boyfriend. All he’s been left with is bitter contempt, to which he clings.

“With a rough exterior long used to keep the world at bay, Van spooks George Curaco, the handsome new frycook at the diner where he works. But George C senses there is more to the untouchable Van and refuses to stop staring, fascinated by his eccentricity. When Van learns that George C is even more cold, alone, and frightened than himself, Van welcomes him to his empty home. And ends up finding his heart.

“Their road to trust is rocky and, at times, even dangerous. And looming evil threatens to keep them apart forever.

“Fair warning: You may want to strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:

  • Sexual assault as a child
  • Sex trafficking
  • Anti-asexual rhetoric

Representation in the novel:

  • m/m relationships
  • [note: there could be characters of color, but for the life of me, I can’t remember; it’s taken a while for me to finish this]

2/5 stars

This book seemed like borderline trauma porn, which…gross. Add that to the fact that the characters were annoying and flat, the pacing was completely off, and how I couldn’t suspend my disbelief, and you now have an author that I won’t read from in the future.

The Scarecrow and George C. follows two characters: Van, a high school loner who works at a diner, and George C., a high school dropout that recently starts to work at that same diner. Van wears a scarecrow get-up as a way to keep a distance between himself and others and prevent them from getting close. However, he and George C. eventually become closer and tentatively begin a friendship and then, eventually, a romantic relationship.

I have so many issues with this book, so let’s just go down the list…

The writing style/voice made me want to DNF so many times. Listen, I really wasn’t a fan of either voice used in the novel. It’s told from dual perspectives: Van’s and George C.’s. And let me tell you…they were both annoying. They both kept breaking the fourth wall, addressing the reader, but outside of being “quirky,” it added nothing to the story. Most of the time (especially if it was Van’s POV) it was arrogant, and it had my eyes rolling throughout the book. On top of that, it got to a point about halfway through the novel where the voices of Van and George C. became indistinguishable to me. Outside of Van’s perspective having more “edgy” (read: irritating) quips, the tone and voice used were practically the same. Again, something that probably wasn’t needed.

The protagonists. Dear Universe, the protagonists. If you want two protagonists trying so hard to be edgy and angst-ridden, this book is for you. I absolutely could not stand either of them, Van or George C. Van is constantly talking to the reader about how edgy he is, and how he needs to be a loner because *tragic backstory here* (because of course this novel is in first-person), but my goodness, I couldn’t stand it. He says he’s all edgy and everything, but he never shows it. And listen, I’m all for people dealing with their trauma in different ways (and being sexually assaulted as a child is, indeed, traumatic), but the way his whole scarecrow get-up was described had me rolling my eyes (again).

And George C….oh, George C. He, too, has had a tragic past, this time from being sex trafficked. Throughout the novel, he constantly thinks he isn’t good enough to have sex with, and his shame from being trafficked is thick. He constantly called himself dirty, used, and any other sex-shaming thing. Again, people deal with trauma in different ways. I have no issue with that. But I felt like neither he nor Van really experienced any character development that was worth my time as a reader. It very much seemed surface value to me, and I was not invested in either of their stories.

Side characters? Oh, you mean those people that only serve a single purpose? I thought Van and George C. were flat characters, but then I ran into the side characters. There are students from Van’s school who run a literature journal and end up befriending Van. But is this friendship ever shown at all to the reader outside of what Van can do for the magazine/journal? Nope, not really. His bosses at the diner are just the caring gay couple who swoop in to save the day. His mom? Ignored the potential abuse that was happening to Van as a child, but suddenly had a change-of-heart, so now that makes her good…I guess? There seemed to be an attempt at depth, with her and Van still having a fragile relationship, but it wasn’t done well, in my opinion.

Now, the elephant in the room. Or, should I say, the elephant that is the foundation of this novel: the trauma porn. Listen. This was probably the biggest thing that got me, outside of the voice of the characters. First, we have Van, who was nearly raped by his mother’s then-boyfriend when he was younger. The only thing that stopped the boyfriend was Van saying no. However, he still touched him, petted him, and basically sexually assaulted him. It got to the point where he couldn’t sleep in his own bed anymore, and it was the reason he set up all of his defenses against others and doesn’t trust anyone.

Now enter George C., who was pushed into prostitution for all of…five days? A week, tops? Before he got out of there after having two clients. He constantly talks about how he isn’t clean, that Van wouldn’t want him because of how gross he is, and that he doesn’t deserve sex with anyone again due to having sex twice with men in exchange for money.

So we have these two boys who think they aren’t worthy of love, or don’t want to get close to anyone, or think they’re sick, or all of the above. But then, when they meet and become closer… All of that suddenly disappears, through the power of love (can you sense my sarcasm?). George C. is enough to get Van to sleep in his own bed again, Van is enough to make George C. not feel disgusted about wanting to bone Van, and they are both enough to somehow heal each other’s past traumas. Which. Uh. Is not how any of this works. But I guess it can melt the hearts of readers? Except not me because, ultimately, I just felt uncomfortable at the end. It felt like there was just enough trauma to make people feel bad and swoon once the pair got together, but not enough where it would…be too horrible, I guess?

I just did not like how this novel dealt with any of it. Because, in the end, there was no actual discussion about it. Sure, Van and George C. talked about their pasts, but what about talk of therapy or counseling? Talk of trying to unlearn certain thought processes or habits? Or anything that would be healthy for them in the long run? None of that happened, and it made me feel gross in return because it just makes it seem like their traumas were used only to cause drama and character “””development”””. I put development in sarcastic quotes because, well, there was little development for either of them. All they developed was their relationship. And once that was established, poof, their traumas went away at the end. For anyone reading, that’s not how trauma works. Like. At all.

So yeah, was not a fan of this at all. Probably won’t read anything else from this author. Someone may like it if they’re looking for edgy teen/young adult protagonists and a shit-ton of angst. But I was not at all happy with how trauma was dealt with in this novel. (Also, be aware of the trigger/content warnings!)

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