I’ve read Chelsea Pitcher’s writing before—she’s my agency mate and a critique partner, after all—but I hadn’t yet read THE S-WORD, her debut novel coming May 7th (2013) from Gallery/Simon and Schuster. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. At the very least, I assumed it would be good, based on her other work. But, honestly, folks… it blew me away.
Here’s a short description before I go on with my review:
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.
THE S-WORD is full of possibilities, with twists and turns both good and bad that let the reader take what they will from the story. I love that the “s-word” itself can stand for so many things: slut, suicide, secret, shame, etc. And yet other words come to mind in relation to some of the amazing characters: sweet, smart, sassy, surprising….
THE S-WORD is both dark and hopeful, shocking and seductive, and about revenge and redemption. It’s not a story for the faint of heart, and yet, it is a story that should be read, period. It deals with many real issues that teens face every day: suicide, slut-shaming, bullying, and double-standards—for example, a guy gets called a rapist, and his friend laugh and slap him on the back; a girl gets called a slut and her life is destroyed. Literally. It doesn’t censor or sugarcoat the realities of many high schoolers’ lives, but it also doesn’t leave you without a light at the end of the tunnel. By a feat of excellent writing, THE S-WORD proves that hope, love and forgiveness are not impossible, even in a terribly dark situation.
The book also has one of the most unique love interests of all time: Jesse, who is cool, sensitive and cross-dressing, with a sexuality that’s hard to pin down (intentionally, on his part). Any story with him in it would be worth reading, but he just makes THE S-WORD that much better, as a bright light in an already colorful cast.
So! I highly recommend it. You can pre-order it at places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Powells, or pick it up in person on or after its May 7th release date. If you’re especially lucky, you could even win an ARC (an advanced reader copy) over at Chelsea’s blog, where she’s holding a giveaway. In any case, do check it out!