July 5th I tweeted, “Best welcome home greeting. ARC copy of Stained by @CherylRainfield I’m jumping up & down with joy. Putting all others away #summerreading”, and I read with barely a pause. As I finished the book I did so holding my breath. There was no way I was going to be able to write a review.
The protagonist, Sarah Meadows, felt too personal. She felt too real, and honestly that scared me a little. So I sat on my copy of Stained and waited for the rawness of Sarah’s experience to evaporate. I wanted to write an objective review. Unfortunately the struggles, fears, and eventual victory I felt along with Sarah as she grew from an obsessively self-conscious teen to a confident young lady would not abate.
In Stained author Cheryl Rainfield uses a port-wine stain covering half of the face of a teenager to represent the feelings of inadequacy many of us experience. Not every person with what society considers a blemish hates that which was given at birth, but many people suffer from the perception of blemishes that only matter within their own mind’s eye. Rainfield captures the feelings of the latter type perfectly.
Plus in true Rainfield style she validates the abused and gives them a flawed survivor in Sarah Meadows. She shows us that even if you’re scared, or imperfect, or ready to give up you can still be your own hero. That validation of being a survivor and honoring all your flaws proved to be the scary aspect of the story to review.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for every book Rainfield writes because she knows the heart of a survivor. Her stories provide the bibliotherapeutic opportunities that many authors cannot produce and many readers desperately need. However, this honest voice of courage through adversity can be frightening because it forces survivors and those fortunate enough not to have faced a similar situation to examine themselves. Am I strong enough to overcome abuse, bullying, self-hate, trust issues, etc? In Sarah Meadows we learn yes we can be that strong. We can be our own hero.