Estelle: The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher

The S-Word by Chelsea PitcherThe S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 304 pages
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: bullying, suicide, friendships
Format read: ARC from NetGalley via Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: When Angie’s best friend commits suicide, she launches into a full-on investigation to find out who continues to tarnish Lizzie’s reputation with the proclamation of SLUT written on her locker and her old journal entries showing up all over school. Angie faces tough truths about her friendship (that wasn’t so solid during Lizzie’s last days) and the downward spiral of hatred at her high school.

Whoa. Chelsea Pitcher has painted such a dark and unforgiving portrait of high school that had me thanking my lucky stars I would never have to go back.

Angie is determined to figure out who continues to tarnish the reputation of her ex-best friend Lizzie who just committed suicide because it would take a person with a pretty sick sense of humor to do that, right? The S-Word begins on shaky footing because there is just so much that is unknown, including how Angie really feels about her friend’s death. Her attitude was a little too distanced to me, the setting a little too film noir, and without a firm grasp on my narrator, I found myself sluggishly making my way through the earlier chapters of the book.

When I least expected it though, as Angie continued to dig deeper into the lives of her high school peers, I was truly swept up into the intertwining storylines, childhood tragedies that had yet to heal, and the secrets uncovered that carefully tied the everything (and everyone) together. While I’m not sure all the intersected plotlines were entirely necessary, you could see that Pitcher put a lot of care into crafting her writing, creating such a complex and multi-arced story. She even folds in some of Lizzie’s journal entries; the insight they provided and Lizzie’s voice in general were a highlight for my own reading experience and gave me some time to breathe as the story grew more and more unfortunate and out of control.

The biggest takeaway from The S-Word is how much we just may not know about the people who are the closest to us and how much trust and bravery is required to truly be yourself (especially in such a toxic environment). The experiences we bury away, the secrets we keep may cause a domino effect of events we can’t even begin to fathom.

Despite the book’s summary, I wasn’t expecting something quite so dark and full of tangled, tangled webs. But I do applaud Pitcher’s complex storytelling, as well as her cast of diverse characters (why oh why is this so uncommon), a unique (tension-filled) romance, and ability to embed some serious surprises.

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12 thoughts on “Estelle: The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher

  1. Tara says:

    I immediately scrolled to the bottom of your review in the hopes that you labeled it “Buy It.” I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now and while I’ll still give it a go, I’m bummed to hear it didn’t quite work out for you 🙁

  2. Alexa Y. says:

    Whoa. This book sounds incredibly intense and a bit dark. It reminds me of the book “I Swear” by Lane Davis, which has a similar vibe and subject matter. I’m actually afraid/nervous about this one now just because of your review – I get the feeling it’s going to make me sad and very uncomfortable if I read it.

  3. Hollie @ Music, Books and Tea says:

    I’ve been looking forward to reading this one for a while, but I didn’t realise just how dark it would actually be. I’ll definitely only be able to read this one if I’m in the mood to. I’m interested to read all the interwoven plot lines too, especially as they seem to be pulled off really well.

  4. Rachel says:

    I’ve been putting this one off until I read a review for it and woah. I did not think it was going to be that dark. I mean, I assumed it was going to be a bit of heavier reading, but not quite to this extent. I think the concept sounds really amazing, though. It’s totally something I’d be into.

  5. Kelly says:

    I’ve got this one from NetGalley, and it’s next after my current read. I figured it would be dark, but I’m really glad to hear it’s so twisted! I’ll have to keep in mind that it starts off slow though, and that I will get the answers I want.

  6. elena says:

    Hmm! This one sounds interesting but it doesn’t really sound like a book I would enjoy? I remember already feeling uncomf from the title! I like that you described the setting as “too film noir” though, adding film noir makes me intrigued even though I know that’s not really the book’s purpose. I think?

  7. VeganYANerds says:

    I’ve been waiting for your review of this ever since your twitter comments about attempting to review it. It does sound dark, more so than I would have thought, but it really is true that you never truly know anyone, even ppl close to you.

  8. Lori says:

    We are like twins when it comes to this book! I really loved the diverse characters and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be so dark as well. Fabulous review, Estelle!

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