AUTHOR: Aimee Salter
PUBLISHER: Alloy Entertainment
PUBLICATION DATE: July 29, 2014
PREVIOUSLY TITLED: Unbreakable, published Nov. 4, 2013
GENRE: Realistic Fiction
SETTING: USA, suburbs
GIVE IT TO: HS
SUMMARY: Ashley Watson and her newest therapist discuss Ashley’s bullying story and what happened the day of Ashley’s “incident.”
WHAT I LIKED: Unreliable narrator. Well, maybe. I loved trying to decide what Ashley is and is not lying about. She’s definitely holding back, but is she outright lying? What was her “incident”? Why is Ashley constantly watching the clock? Is Ashley crazy? What’s with the “Older Me” Ashley keeps seeing in the mirror? Every Ugly Word is positively dripping with mysteries and unexpected twists. Trying to guess at Ashley’s story kept me turning pages late into the night.
Pacing. I was “into” Ashley’s story from the first couple of pages. My NetGalley copy had font issues that made it more difficult for me to read…so difficult that I almost didn’t even start reading it. I thought, let me at least read a little bit to get an idea what it’s about. And then I ended up reading the whole thing. There aren’t many books interesting enough to overcome hard-to-read fonts. Surely, the final drafts of Every Ugly Word are better; perhaps it was just something about the download onto my Nook.
Flawed characters. There are certainly no Mary Sues here. Ashley, Matt, Ashley’s mother, the therapist: all of them have their ups and downs in the story. And there’s always the question of Ashley’s honesty in relating her story–is she even telling us the truth?
Complex relationships. While Ashley says Matt is her only true friend, she has lots of relationships with other characters in the story. Each of these relationships contributes its own part to Ashley’s story. None of the people in Ashley’s life are 100% bad or 100% good. There are multiple layers of character development here, and of course, there’s always that underlying question about Ashley’s honesty. Can the reader trust that Ashley is telling the truth? And seriously, what happens at 2:30?
Surprises. There are some. I didn’t see most of them coming until they were almost there, but as it turned out, the clues were there all along. Ashley definitely kept me on my toes.
Art. I love the way Ashley’s art is portrayed. WOW.
The fallacy of “just ignore them.” The people in Ashley’s life tell her several times that she should “just ignore” the bullies. They even insinuate that Ashley invites her own problems and brings the bullying on herself. Does she? Is she crazy? What is going on? Oh, wouldn’t I just love to tell you? 😉
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: Ummmmm…
Maybe the title? I think the original title, Unbreakable, goes better with the story. But, yeah, that’s it. That’s all my criticism of this book. If you’ve read my other reviews, you know it’s so rare that I can say that. Even for my favorite books, I always find something I disliked. I really LOVED this book.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Read it! This is not your typical bullying story, nor is Ashley your typical narrator. There is a LOT going on in a short 257 pages, and that makes Every Ugly Word among my favorites of 2014!
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. An easy selection for high school libraries. Middle school librarians might want to check content notes. If you have Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, Every Ugly Word has similar mature content.
- Overall: 5/5
- Creativity: 5/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 5/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to teens: 5/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: mild-medium; “dick” (3); damn (2); one character nicknames Ashley “C” for “cunt” (the actual word is never used, but readers will know what it refers to)
- Sexuality: medium; the bullying is often of a sexual nature, one attempted sexual assault, several allusions to sexually active teens (but no sex described), sex is expected at After-Prom party
- Violence: medium; the bullying is extreme, but it is never gory or bloody; teens fighting/punching
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; teens get drunk at party; hospital sedatives