ARC Review: Chelsea Pitcher – The S-Word


Title: The S-Word
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Simon & Schuster
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Release Date: 7 May 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.

Debut author Chelsea Pitcher daringly depicts the harsh reality of modern high schools, where one bad decision can ruin a reputation, and one cruel word can ruin a life. Angie’s quest for the truth behind Lizzie’s suicide is addictive and thrilling, and her razor-sharp wit and fierce sleuthing skills makes her impossible not to root for—even when it becomes clear that both avenging Lizzie and avoiding self-destruction might not be possible.

I had a few issues with this book, but can I just first say how much I loved Jesse? LOVE LOVE LOVE

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…

The S-Word is a delightfully-written mystery novel, narrated by Angie, Lizzie’s best friend. Just prior to the opening of the book, Lizzie kills herself. Angie takes it upon herself to dig around and find out just why Lizzie had killed herself. She uncovers some pretty nasty secrets, not all of them Lizzie’s.

Chelsea Pitcher proves in her debut novel that she is perfectly capable of handling characterization. I was a little worried at the start of the novel that characters would be nothing but stereotypes, and while I did run into a few stereotypes that made my eyes roll, Pitcher also managed to take those characters and turn them on their heads, giving them a back-story and turning them into characters I grew to actually care about.

Jesse was the most intriguing character for me, and right behind him was Kennedy, head cheerleader and popular girl. I was so, so pleased to see these two characters fleshed out and becoming real people.

Angie, on the other hand, was definitely not an interesting character for me. She was a perfectly (un)reliable narrator, but she hardly shows any emotion. Certainly, she is most unemotional about her best friend’s death, and I kept hoping during the duration of the story that she would just break down and cry about Lizzie’s death. Instead, she is filled with such outrage about her friend’s death that it turns into a vengeful plot, one where Angie only feels fit to fill in the reader with half her plan.

Angie feels guilt over Lizzie’s death, but guilt, to me, is a very selfish emotion, and though Angie feels badly about abandoning Lizzie when she really needed her, she also continuously wonders why Lizzie never told her not only about prom night but also about her deepest secret. But the real reason I didn’t like Angie is that she utilized her friend’s death to dig into her friend’s deepest secrets. Who did Lizzie betray? Who did she confide in? What really happened at prom night? Angie wouldn’t have known all those things if she hadn’t done what she did. No one would have talked about any of it. (I also couldn’t get over her destroying the graduation gowns, but mostly because I know how expensive those things are, only to have them ruined.)

I actually have almost a whole page of quotes that I really liked from this. Some of the characters are so smart (or maybe not-so-smart, but they sometimes say such obviously intelligent things that it’s jarring and it really stands out, especially among Angie’s narration). I want to check them against a good copy before I post them, so look out for those.

So, overall, I liked the book, but I really couldn’t stand the narrator. I’m not sure if that was intentional on the part of the author, but Angie came across as less a grieving friend and more someone who was just out for justice and didn’t actually care who she railroaded in the process. For me, an unlikeable narrator pulls me out of the story a bit, and it affects my enjoyment of the story as a whole. But I did like some of the other characters, and that in itself redeemed it enough to earn 3.5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for a fair review. All opinions herein are mine and were not influenced by the publisher or author in any way.


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