I first caught sight of this book at the library when I randomly pulled it out of the shelf. The premise seemed promising enough but I didn’t realize till I got home that this is a mystery novel. Now, I don’t read a lot of these nowadays but I had this phase when I was still in sixth and seventh grades where I read one mystery book after the other. Perhaps it is because of that that I expected to read something more sophisticated ten years on, seeing how I used to read juvenile fiction back then. In terms of a plot with many twists and turns, “The S-Word” was lacking. In fact, by the time the resolution unfolded, I wondered what the whole point of the mystery slant was and I predicted more than half of the outcomes.
Lizzie wasn’t the first student at Verity High School to kill herself this year. But the difference is, she didn’t go quietly.
First it was SLUT scribbled all over the school’s lockers. But one week after Lizzie Hart takes her own life, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it–in Lizzie’s own looping scrawl. Photocopies of her diary show up in the hands of her classmates. And her best friend, Angie, is enraged.
Angie had stopped talking to Lizzie on prom night, when she caught Lizzie in bed with her boyfriend. Too heartbroken to let Lizzie explain the hookup or to intervene when Lizzie gets branded Queen of the Sluts and is cruelly bullied by her classmates, Angie left her best friend to the mercy of the school, with tragic results.
But with this new slur, Angie’s guilt transforms into anger that someone is still targeting Lizzie even after her death. Using clues from Lizzie’s diary and aided by the magnetic, mysterious Jesse, Angie begins relentlessly investigating who, exactly, made Lizzie feel life was no longer worth living. And while she might claim she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, her anguish over abandoning and then losing her best friend drives Angie deeper into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.
Anyway, genre aside, I do think that “The S-Word” makes for a good read for anyone, especially in high school. Bullying is a very serious issue and when it pushes people over the edge, to the point of suicide, we really need to ask ourselves if we could have handled certain situations differently. In Angie’s exploration of the events that unfolded prior to her best friend’s suicide, it becomes evident that bullying was a major contributor. Pitcher showed though that things are a lot more complicated than straight-up bullying and also showed how Angie’s ex-boyfriend, Drake, factored in when he apparently cheated on Angie with Lizzie.
Even though some parts were predictable, there were multiple layers for the reader to uncover and various aspects of the different characters to explore.What didn’t make all that much sense to me though was Angie’s emotional detachment towards Lizzie’s diary entries when photocopies surfaced in people’s lockers. That regret that she claimed to experience as a result of the things she found out when it was already too late didn’t come through enough. She blamed herself for not supporting Lizzie when she was hurt but occasionally that seemed forced, especially amidst her preoccupation with finding out who was responsible for defacing lockers, cars, etc around school. As important as it was to her to find the culprit, she completely forgot to figure out why Lizzie took her own life. Coupled with her insistence towards the end that people should never forget Lizzie, the flow of the story was somewhat fragmented.