Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Review: The S Word
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Published: May 4, 2013
Paperback, 304 pages
5 Gold Stars
(summary from Goodreads)
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.
It's common to find young adult novels involving suicide and ostracized girls. I've read quite a few books about a girl who finds her boyfriend cheating on her or a girl who gets labelled as a slut, but this book was nothing like those others. It involved many of the same ideas, but it stood out of the pact. Angie discovers her best friend, Lizzie, in bed with her boyfriend on prom night. She doesn't wait around for an explanation and by monday, Lizzie is labelled a slut. Angie ignores her, agreeing with everyone else, until Lizzie commit suicide and suddenly Angie doesn't feel okay about anything she did. When Suicide Slut shows up on Lizzie's locker in her own handwriting, Angie takes it among herself find out who won't let Lizzie rest in peace. Throughout her investigations, she finds out more about herself than anything else and realizes she wasn't the best friend she could have been those last weeks of Lizzie's life.
This book started with a bang. I knew the writing would show up, but when it did, a chill ran down my spine. I had no idea how it would play out - did Lizzie somehow come back from the dead? Never died? Was someone just screwing with everyone? Wanting to know the answer just as much as Angie did, I had to keep reading, and reading, until I was done. I plowed through this book and as more clues and hints were given, more suspects coming to light, I found myself constantly thinking about who could be behind all this. But the writing on the locker wasn't even the scariest part of this story. Angie discovers things about high school that she was oblivious to. As she reads Lizzie's diary, she finds out how Lizzie really felt about high school. As one of the most popular girls in school, Angie didn't know how hard it was for others to survive the hell that is high school. She becomes friends with Jesse, one of Lizzie's old friends, and finds out first hand how hard it is to be an individual where all everyone wants is to be accepted. The brutality of high school is shown without filters, and Pitcher nails it on the head.
Not only did this book show the cruelty of teens, but it also had a dash of mystery and teen sleuthing. Angie was a nice mix of Veronica Mars and the guilty best friend, and Lizzie was an updated version of Hester Prynne, a nice big little S by her name. The twists and turns that come to light as this story progressed kept me on my toes and eager for more. Everything came together in a hauntingly beautiful, realistic ending with a nice dash of revenge involved for good measure. Not only did this book touch on bullying, slut shaming, and suicide, but it also dove into the heart wrenching reality of child abuse, sexuality, gender roles, and rape.
Angie's character developed like any real girl would after something brutal and unforgivable happens in her life. Much like the main character in Speechless, she discovers the consequences of her actions as she tries to redeem herself throughout the book. Everything sequence of events leads to the unforgettable ending and there is not better way for this book to have played out. Pitcher took risks and succeeded, Angie's voice is bitter with anger and regret and even Lizzie's voice is haunting from beyond the grave, pleading and loving and wishing for only a better life. A heartbreaking, realistic and fragile read, Pitcher hits the bullseye of this genre.
“It scares me to see someone so together come unhinged. It makes me think none of us are in control.”
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