Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown
Published Little Brown 2013
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Format: Hardback from the library
Ashleigh’s boyfriend, Kaleb, is about to leave for college, and Ashleigh is worried that he’ll forget about her while he’s away. So at a legendary end-of-summer pool party, Ashleigh’s friends suggest she text him a picture of herself — sans swimsuit — to take with him. Before she can talk herself out of it, Ashleigh strides off to the bathroom, snaps a photo in the full-length mirror, and hits “send.”
But when Kaleb and Ashleigh go through a bad breakup, Kaleb takes revenge by forwarding the text to his baseball team. Soon the photo has gone viral, attracting the attention of the school board, the local police, and the media. As her friends and family try to distance themselves from the scandal, Ashleigh feels completely alone — until she meets Mack while serving her court-ordered community service. Not only does Mack offer a fresh chance at friendship, but he’s the one person in town who received the text of Ashleigh’s photo — and didn’t look.
Acclaimed author Jennifer Brown brings readers a gripping novel about honesty and betrayal, redemption and friendship, attraction and integrity, as Ashleigh finds that while a picture may be worth a thousand words . . . it doesn’t always tell the whole story.
Jennifer Brown just continued to blow me away. I read Hate List earlier this year and it covered such an emotional topic in a great way and Thousand Words did exactly the same thing. This time, the topic was sexting, another deep topic that isn’t really covered too much in books but really should be. It happens often to many teenagers, so it’s a shame that not very many young adult books cover this topic. However, this book tackled the topic really well. It looked at how it effected every single person involved – Ashleigh, Kaleb, their parents, the school, the teachers, their friends, people they are meeting, the whole town. It takes on the topic from so many angles, seeing all the different ways that the events can be interpreted and how different it can be for different people. It’s really nice to see this from all these angles and really gives it the full story.
Ashleigh is a really cool character to see the story from. She has some decent reasons for making the decision to take the picture – she wants more attention and she is drunk. It’s presented in a way that makes you feel for Ashleigh as she hopes for her boyfriend to spend more time with her instead of his friends, especially as he is preparing to move away for college. Kaleb obviously releases the picture on the Internet, but you never hate him. He does have a human side and shows regret in watching the image spread. The effects it has on his character is also pretty important, and I wish there was a little bit more expansion because that story line was very unique. Ashleigh goes through a great character development with Mack and the other kids in community service that help her realize that this one thing she did is not all she is. She is still a person with dreams and fears and emotions and isn’t defined by one choice. That’s a really great message.
The writing is my favorite part of Jennifer Brown’s books. She switches from present to past, which really helps the story unfold. It keeps the book entertaining and constantly moving forward, so I finished this book in around a day. I was just so interested to see what would happen to all of the characters as they were caught up in all the aftermath. Everyone had very different reactions, so it was cool to see how everyone responded. Her parents definitely had some great scenes, as did the parts with Mack and Vonnie. It showed just how far a situation like this can go and where it can travel.
Overall, this is a really great book that deeply explores an intense topic. It’s an emotional book that really makes you connect with all the characters. I wish there was a little bit more expansion on some minor character’s storylines to really flesh out the entire book, but it got me thinking about the situation and people affected by it.