Title: The S-Word
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Summary from Goodreads- 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.
In short, Chelsea Pitcher’s debut was an awkward, sloppy mess.
In…well, long, I think I’ll start by saying what I think her intentions were before explaining why this book just didn’t work for me. I think Pitcher meant to write a story about the dangers of bullying; how it affects the victim, and how it affects everyone involved. When I started reading, I was hoping that maybe Pitcher would discuss the double standard for boys and girls where the word “slut” is concerned, because obviously that word is a big part of the story. She touched on it a little bit, but definitely not enough to make for a meaningful story. I also thought she would talk more about Angie’s grief and guilt, which we surely get some of, but to me this didn’t end up being a very emotional (at least realistically) story. The way Pitcher carried it out made it into more of a revenge story, which severely diminished the impact it could have had, and the way it was written didn’t help it at all.
I felt like the writing was really sloppy and awkward, as I mentioned earlier. Every time someone spoke, I cringed a little, because the dialogue was just…bad. It always seemed kind of forced and I felt like the voices of the characters were inconsistent. That might make sense for Angie, since she turns out to me mildly insane, but it was still really irritating, especially at the beginning when Angie and Shelby are talking and Pitcher tried for a more sleuthy-sleuth tone. That voice in particular just felt out of place and out of time. I simply couldn’t imagine high schoolers talking that way. I also didn’t like Lizzie’s diary voice. I felt it was ingenuine and, again, that a high school girl wouldn’t really talk that way.
In terms of characters, the majority of them were boring, flat, and one-dimensional. You knew what each character’s deal was right away (minus Angie, but I’ll get to that later), which doesn’t really make for interesting reading. I didn’t like any of the characters, although of course I felt sorry for Lizzie and Kennedy, but I still didn’t feel a connection to any of them.
*NOTE: NEXT PART MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Where plot was concerned, I had a lot of problems, since there were so many gaping holes in the plot. At the beginning of the book, it seems like The S-Word is going to be a story like Pretty Little Liars, where a girl (or in that case girls) works to expose a creepy stalker determined to control her and mess with her head and make her feel guilty for all the horrible things she’s done. It continues on that path when Angie immediately starts investigating, looking for whoever wrote Suicide Slut on Lizzie’s locker and stole the pages of her diary. She employs many of Lizzie’s tormentors, including Shelby, Kennedy, and Marvin, into her search, until the dramatic twist near the end, when Jesse discovers that Angie set all of them up so she could know exactly who hurt Lizzie and how so she could get the proper revenge.
Let me tell you, that twist was absolutely ridiculous. First, Jesse finds KILLER etched into Angie’s skin, leading her to admit she was the one who wrote Suicide Slut on Lizzie’s locker and planted the pages in people’s lockers. This could have been an interesting twist, if we had had any clue at all that Angie was doing it all along. When she confesses, it seems she knew she was doing all of those things, but for the majority of the story she’s looking for answers. I don’t know if she’s completely psychotic or just a really good liar, but either way that conclusion was so ridiculously bad it was almost funny.
Besides that, I felt like there was too much else going on for the story to be meaningful in any sort of way. Every time a new twist came up during the last 20% or so, I honestly kept rolling my eyes because it was all just too much. Pitcher tried to bring in so many issues that I think most readers will feel like they’re drowning in drama. Besides the suicide issue, which wasn’t discussed enough for my liking, she also tried to bring in LGBT issues, making Jesse a bisexual cross-dresser and making Lizzie gay and in love with Angie on top of it. She also brought sexual abuse into it with Lizzie’s father, who abused Kennedy when they were very young. The only part of the book that held any real meaning for me was when Angie discovered Drake had raped Lizzie, not just cheated on her with Lizzie as she had originally thought.
All in all, there was far too much going on in the disjointed plot to extract much emotional meaning, and the author’s writing needs a lot of work. I didn’t think such a big disappointment would come so early in the year, but there we go. All I have left to say for this one is, DO NOT READ, or, to be nicer, READ ON PAIN OF CONFUSION AND EXTREME DISAPPOINTMENT.