The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher, released in 2013
First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.
But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie’s looping scrawl.
Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she’s caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie’s own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.
Have you ever read a book and then, somehow, forgotten everything about the plot and characters and meaning to the story but retained a single emotion from your reading? An emotion so powerful you either knew that book was the best thing you ever read … or the worst?
That was my experience with The S-Word. I can’t quite say when I first read this book, but it was more than three years ago. Something about the book left a bad taste in my mouth because I refused to ever touch it again. Maybe you’re getting a sense of this, because this review is a week late. Yet here I am, reviewing this book and … I really loved it? I have no idea what would have upset me so terribly in my first reading. Not one clue. But enough about me, let’s get to the review.
Like the book summary says, this is the story of Angie and Lizzie. On prom night (which I did not know happened during the school year, shows how much I know about the American school system) Lizzie is caught in bed with Angie’s boyfriend. In the days after, the word SLUT is written on Lizzie’s locker and on her car, people try to cut off pieces of her clothing (because she wants it “off”), a naked drawing of Lizzie circulates the school, and Angie stops talking to Lizzie completely. Then Lizzie commits suicide. But it doesn’t stop there. Not it’s SUICIDE SLUT that is written everywhere and Angie is hell bent on finding out who tormented her best friend to her last days.
What did I like about this book? For one, you can tell this book isn’t messing around. The very first page throws everything at you. Lizzie is dead, Angie is pissed, and there is a helluva lot of bullying going around. There are some books that deal with slut-shaming or suicide and, maybe it’s just me, but the topic is handled softly. What authors might forget is that these are teens. They don’t care about being sensitive. Sometimes, being brash and to the point is the only way to be true to the topic.
At the same time, I’m not saying the author isn’t sensitive. There are delicate topics raised in this book and Pitcher maintains a socially conscious approach throughout her writing. One scene in particular has Angie approach someone she now knows has commit a serious crime. Angie is uncomfortable but also conflicted. Without spoiling too much, I will say that Pitcher shows how difficult it can be to accept when people you trust commit grievous wrongs.
Another thing I loved? Angie’s narration. She is unstable. She is not reliable. She just lost her best friend and as a reader, you can sense her culpability. But to what extent, you won’t know until the end.
One thing I remain somewhat conflicted on is Jesse’s characterization. He’s well-developed and so freaking caring buuuuuut … [SPOILER] he is portrayed as gay for most of the book only for readers to find out he is not gay, he only maintained what people believed because it was easier. This is complicated and really needs some unpacking (at least for me). I mean, the main thing that sticks out to me is that it is hard for someone to come out, and he is out but doesn’t have to be because he isn’t? Yet it’s not like he is enjoying “perks.” My thoughts aren’t fully with me here, because I’m not quite sure how I feel, but I do like his character and I do think he does more good than harm. If you read this book, be sure to let me know how you feel. It was certainly something I’ve never encountered in a book before. [END SPOILER]
All in all though, I really enjoyed this book. The ending threw me for a loop EVEN THOUGH I read it before because I forgot it all. Guilt does crazy things to people and you can never really know how to deal (or how others will deal). I think Angie has a lot to learn at the end of the book but going along her process was … kind of cathartic? Sometimes you need to rage at all the unfairness, all the justice that is not served. So maybe I understand her a little. Not completely. But a little.
So for this book, five crowns. There is so much to think about following this book (so much I invite you to think about if you read it) which is what I want in any good read.
Now, on to next week’s Chooseday. What should I read and review? Leave me a comment below with your pick!
1) Pivot Point by Kasie West [YA / Fantasy]
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.
In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through… and who she can’t live without.
2) Chomp by Carl Hiaasen [YA/ Humour]
Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. The critters he can handle. His father is the unpredictable one.
When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called “Expedition Survival!”, Wahoo figures he’ll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show’s boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo’s acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who’s sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out.
They’ve only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna’s dad shows up with a gun . . .
3) Slumber Party by Christopher Pike [Horror]
Lara thought the ski trip would be a blast. The old gang was getting together for the first time in years. But then there’s a very unexpected visitor….
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