Stained by Cheryl Rainfield

Stained is another strong YA novel by Cheryl Rainfield. I enjoyed her first two novels, Scars and Hunted. Her novels focus on teenaged girls who are rejected by society and struggle to find the strength within to survive and eventually to thrive.

Rainfield has great compassion for her characters. She write realistic fiction about horrific situations without delving into cheap details, yet keeps the situation “real.” 

From the publisher: An intensely powerful account of a teen, bullied for her port-wine stain, who must summon her personal strength to survive abduction and horrific abuse at the hands of a deranged killer. Sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for “normal.” Born with a port wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that-or succumb to a killer.

Sarah Meadows wakes up one morning excited to begin treatment to fade her port wine birthmark. Bad news arrives about her father’s company–someone has embezzled a huge amount of money and her treatment get postponed. Sarah is crushed, yet tries to understand her father’s situation. She heads off to school and we see her deal with bullies as well as how she relates to her friends. She never makes it home after school. The action after that alternates between Sarah’s ordeal in captivity and her friend Nick’s efforts to help find her.

I never really warmed up to Sarah, but she seems like a believable character. We see her through her internal monolog–her fears, her hopes, her misconceptions—and also through the eyes of other characters. She keeps her parents and friends at a bit of a distance. She’s also a rather harsh judge of others. Sarah’s ordeal provides her with searing clarity on what’s important in her life. Nick also learns and grows during the time Sarah is missing. Rainfield provides just the right balance of details so that you can feel what the characters are going through, but there’s nothing gratuitous.

While reading Stained I couldn’t help thinking of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Birth-Mark,” Emma Donoghue’s Room, and Patricia Cornwell’s serial killer novels. What a combination of misery, but this is a YA novel with a strong message of hope. It is sickening that girls and women are experiencing such horrific situations, but pretending it isn’t out there doesn’t help anyone. Novels like this might help teens make sense of a world where these things happen. It might even be a way in for parents to talk with their kids.

Cheryl Rainfield
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 1, 2013
Source: review copy provided by the publisher

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