Friday, May 3, 2013

ARC Review: The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher


Title: The S-Word

Author: Chelsea Pitcher

Rating: 2 Stars

Release Date: May 7th, 2013

As you can probably guess from the fact that I started The S-Word a little over an hour ago, I skimmed through this novel. Even I can't read a three-hundred page novel so quickly. Now, having finished this debut, all I can think is that it would have been far more suited to the hands of a more experienced writer. For a debut novel, The S-Word lacks finesse. I cannot pinpoint exactly what it is, but something about the writing style in this didn't work for me. Although it is evident that the vision that Pitcher had for her first piece is brilliant, its ultimate execution sadly isn't.

The S-Word opens up with the suicide of Lizzy. Angie and Lizzy have been best friends for years, but when Angie catches Lizzy with her boyfriend on the night of prom, she ceases to speak to her and, consequently, the entire school labels her as a slut. Now, even with her death, her memory refuses to fade. A mysterious individual writes "SCHOOL SLUT" on the lockers, all in Lizzy's looping scrawl, and what's more, they slip pages from her diary into the lockers of students who Lizzy knew well. Angie, filled with guilt at the role she played in her best friends subsequent death, sets out to find who exactly is writing on lockers and reading Lizzy's diary. Along the way, though, she may find a truth more shocking than everything else.

In terms of plot, The S-Word is excellent. As a mystery novel, it reads very well, flowing at a solid pace and revealing clues slowly, but masterfully. While I had many ideas, the ultimate revelation was still a slight shock and, on that front, Pitcher proved to be a strong author. Yet, what forced me to skim this novel was, quite simply, the writing style. First and foremost, Angie is a protagonist who lacks emotion. Although her best friend has just committed suicide and betrayed her with her boyfriend, Angie never exhibits any outward anger, grief, or trauma. Instead of her narration reading like that of a friend who is mourning her childhood companion, it reads more like a mystery than anything else, which took away from the overall impact of this story.

Moreover, the dialogue veered on the border of highly unrealistic at times. When Angie interviews her classmate, either her responses or theirs often made me question the soundness of the phrasing. For some reason, it simply didn't flow, proving to be rather choppy. Even Lizzy's diary entries, which are scattered between every few chapters, read more like the thoughts of a middle school student than a high school girl gearing for college. All in all, it was simply so tough to grasp this story because of the distance first placed by the narrator and later the unrealistic dialogue that marred the situations throughout this book.

Yet, even more than that, I was sad to find that the ultimate message of this book, although important in thought, was never properly conveyed. Granted, Pitcher did have a fabulous idea for her debut, one that could have changed the thought-processes of many readers, but as a whole, her book fell short of that much-needed impact. You see, despite focusing on the injustice of branding girls as a slut, especially when the boy involved gets away without even one form of bullying, The S-Word never felt as if it preached to a universal audience of girls. Prior to Lizzy's betrayal, she had always been known as a goody-two-shoes type of girl who had no interest in boys or sex. Thus, when Angie defends her friend, she continually emphasizes the fact that Lizzy was a good girl and, as such, didn't deserve the label of a slut.

In this manner, Pitcher makes us feel sympathy for Lizzy instead of immediately hating her for her actions as so many of her classmates did, but isn't this simply a double standard? What about the girls who get labeled sluts every day and aren't a carbon copy of Mandy Moore from A Walk to Remember? What about those girls who are just normal, flawed beings with their fair share of "enemies" in high school? Do they deserve to be labeled a slut, then? No, of course not. Chelsea Pitcher manages to get into the mindset of this fictional school and these fictional characters, but her messages about slut-shaming are restricted to her novel and aren't nearly as universal as I hoped.

Nevertheless, I must admit that The S-Word is a novel with very good intentions. It set out to show readers that we are quick to judge and label, especially in a world that continually objectifies women. Although we live in societies where women are given their basic freedoms - voting, abortion rights, independence - they are still subject to so much more than their ancestors never were. While The S-Word didn't work to impact me in any way, I certainly hope that other readers will find it to be the thought-provoking novel I hoped it would be. Even if it lacks a lot, idea certainly isn't one of them. (But, then again, isn't the point of a novel to execute a good idea well? *sigh*)

12 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I've seen quite a lot of readers that had problems similar to your Keertana with The S-Word. I did find it a bit hard to get into, but I guess I was just suckered in by the mystery and my need for wanting to know who was behind it all. And I was really surprised by some of the revelations along the way. Sorry this didn't work out for you Keertana, I hope your next read is a lot more enjoyable! :)

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  3. Aw, I'm sorry the execution for this book didn't work out. It's really jarring when the dialogue is unrealistic! Thanks for your honest review.

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  4. Oh I don't think this one is for me. I agree with what you said about slut-shaming. Even those that have made mistakes do not deserve to be bullied. It sounds like it fails horribly at it's message. Brilly review tho!!

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  5. You've done such a fantastic job of reviewing this book, Keertana, even though it fell so flat for you. It always makes me sad when an author with a really good idea just can't see the writing of it through. I feel like sometimes they get published BECAUSE of the idea, when really they should have been pushed by their editor to rework more to make it better. *sigh*

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  6. Oh, no. I was really excited for this one! Unfortunately, I've seen quite a few less than fond reviews for this book. It's sad to hear that Angie sounded emotionless, especially after the death of a friend. And unrealistic dialogue? Ugh, that makes me cringe. I think I'll pass on this one then. Thanks for the candid and articulate review, Keertana! :)

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  7. I've read really mixed reviews of this so far, and I have it but have not got to it yet.

    The mystery aspect appeals to me but it sounds like everything else was not so well done. Great review, K.

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  8. This one probably isn't for me (even the title puts me off), but I'm sorry to hear that the story was so poorly executed. It's a shame, as it sounds like it could have been good otherwise. Lovely review as always, though!

    Also, I just noticed that you're currently reading Charm and Strange. I know Blythe loved that one. I can't wait to see what you think!

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  9. It's unfortunate the writing made it hard to connect with the characters. I agree, the idea of this story sounds really good and I think the mystery might keep me engaged. I don't like the double standards we have in today's society for boys and girls. I would be highly irritated that the boyfriend didn't have any repercussions for cheating on his girlfriend but I don't like the fact that her best friend slept with him either. Great review, Keertana. :)

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  10. Agh, instead of turning me away from this book (it's really not something I'd enjoy even if it WAS well written), you've actually made me curious about this disastrous writing style.
    On the other hand, this smells too strongly of issue books and I promised myself I wouldn't read a single one this year. Not one. I'm all about the escapism. :))
    Sorry you wasted your time, but thanks for saving some of mine.

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  11. Wait! Did you start the book, skim it and then write that entire review within an hour? You are a machine, K! I aspire to be like you. This novel is not going to be for me, and I'm glad I could figure that out from your review instead of trying to read it for myself.

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