Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown | Book Review

Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

 

Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

Publisher/Year: Little Brown May 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA, Realistic Fiction
Series: No
Other Books From Author: Hate List, Perfect Escape, Bitter End
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

The summer is about to come to an end and Ashleigh finds herself with the realization that her boyfriend, Kaleb, will be leaving soon for college. Concerned that he will forget her and full of insecurities about their future, she laments to her friends who suggest she take him a picture that will make SURE he doesn’t forget her. Drunk and armed with her phone, she takes a naked picture of herself and sends it to him. Months later Ashleigh and Kaleb have a very nasty breakup and Kaleb gets revenge by sending the naked picture out. Soon everybody in the school and beyond has seen it and everyone from the media to the police are now involved and she’s being ostracized at school. Ordered to court ordered community service, Ashleigh meets Mack, the only person in the program who will really talk to her, and starts a friendship with the one person she knows of that didn’t look at the photo when he received it and learns Mack’s story of why he is in community service.

Here’s the thing — I think what Thousand Words tackled and how it was portrayed was phenomenal. I think it’s an important book for teens in this age because sexting is a HUGE issue along with other abuses of technology. It’s a story that needs to be talked about because it sheds light in an honest and accessible way on this issue and also could help teens who SEE these things happen speak up and not further victimize the victim. However, I just had very “in the middle” feelings about it outside of that.

The story was told in a way where we knew WHAT happened up front and then we got alternating chapters of how the whole thing unfolded plus the present day. It was interesting to read the present day and the foundation for where she is now side by side. The whole mess was hard to read and it was really sad to see how she was ostracized at school and even among friends who knew the truth. There was a lot of victim blaming in this one and it was so hard to read about though it felt sadly realistic.

The even stronger point, I thought, in the whole story was how it affected her and her parents — their relationship and the effect on her parents’ life! There was also a lot to think about in terms of consequences for Ashleigh and many other people in this story and I appreciated that added dimension to the story because I didn’t think about some of the consequences as the story began. It made the story feel very complete to me as I battled with what was unfair and fair in this situation when it came to the people impacted by this act (Ashleigh, Kaleb, the bystanders, how her parents were impacted).

I think what is so important about the plot of this book is how realistic it is. It was completely plausible. I mean, the main character is a little drunk at a party and her girlfriends encourage her to make her boyfriend wish he was there with her so she sends her BOYFRIEND a naked pic of herself. After they go through a nasty break up months later, he sets the picture free and suddenly she is caught up in a major scandal and everyone is calling her a whore and slut and circulating nasty rumors. I can imagine many girls out there have done something that they thought was innocent in nature because it was just to their boyfriend and luckily, for some of them, nothing ever gets out but others aren’t so lucky. Sexting aside, in this era with all the technology, there are so many situations that could happen like this when your every move seems to be documented and mistakes are hard to erase.

While I thought the overall story was good, I just had a hard time connecting with Ashleigh. Sure I felt bad for her but I really didn’t feel like I got much from her and she seemed very one dimensional in some ways. I wanted a little more depth with her emotions. I understood her embarrassment but I wanted to get past the surface and really FEEL her emotions and I didn’t. I also thought a lot of the other characters were very bland and rudimentary so that was kind of disappointing because I’m definitely one who needs to FEEL something strongly towards a character (doesn’t even have to be a LIKE of them). The story just felt really impersonal to me though I thought it was good story.

I thought Jennifer Brown did a really great job of taking a timely issue and delicately breathing it to life with a scenario that really isn’t all that unrealistic today. If you enjoy “issue-y” novels that aren’t preachy this is a good one for sure as it looked at things in a multi-dimensional way and was realistic. As much as I think this story was done really well and is IMPORTANT, I just didn’t find what I was looking for to connect to it and make it more memorable for me. A lot of the characters, even Ashleigh for me, just felt at a distance to me where I could KNOW what I was supposed to feel towards them but I never actually felt much of anything except for feeling bad for all the Ashleigh’s of the world whose mistakes unfortunately get thrust out in the open. As impactful as this novel could have been on me, it just wasn’t.

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Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown-  teen issue book

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read Thousand Words? Heard of it? If you’ve read it, what did you think? I’m curious if you think Kaleb’s punishment was fair? Have you read any of Jennifer Brown’s other novels? Have you read any other novels/heard of the one that tackles sexting?

three-half-stars
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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. First of all, I was really excited to see that you’re reviewing a Jennifer Brown novel today, as I currently have Perfect Escape sitting on my TBR bookshelf and I would love to get a better idea of what to expect from Brown’s work! πŸ™‚

    While I admittedly do have a weakness for ‘issue’ stories (Tammara Webber’s ‘Easy’ comes immediately to mind, for instance) I think an emotional connection to the story being told is crucial if the author has any hope of impacting their audience in a fundamental way. Unfortunately, I find that too many of these sort of novels tend to veer into the territory of preaching rather than teaching, and that inevitably spoils my enjoyment of them. I’m sorry to hear that it sounds as though Thousand Words suffers from a similar issue. While I certainly appreciate Brown’s timely examination of an important issue that’s impacting teens today, I think I’ll pass on this particular novel as it doesn’t sound as though the manner in which the message is delivered would be right for me. On a positive note, I do think it’s sweet that Ashleigh strikes up a friendship with the one boy who refused to look at the photo – That’s such a cute concept!

    This was such a thoughtful and sensitive review, Jamie! πŸ˜€ Lovely work.

  2. I recently just finished reading this and, like you, I just couldn’t connect with Ashleigh. Her situation was really bad and I felt sorry for her (especially since she was kind of coaxed into doing it), but for some reason I just never truly cared about her character.

    It was an okay book, but I finished reading it just wishing there had been MORE, you know? Everything felt a little underdeveloped for me.

  3. Oh my this is horrifying in terms of real life and having girls of my own. THAT being said, I’ve always wanted to pick up a Jennifer Brown book but I just never have since I’ve started reading the contemps. Melissa at I Swim For Oceans loves her to pieces, though, and gave me a few titles to start with, so I really need to get my feet wet with her because I like these issue-y type books even though sometimes having girls (and a boy) of my own, they just scare the heck out of what I’m going to be facing in the future!

    It’s kind of a shame you couldn’t really connect with this MC, but I wonder if it’s because she pulled herself back a bit because of how hard it was to deal with everything. I know I do that sometimes (read: almost everytime) something big happens in my life – certainly nothing like this has ever happened to me, but I can just HEAR someone saying that they can’t connect with me over issues because I have the tendency to keep people at arm’s length so I don’t have to deal as deeply with things or be as emotionally involved because it is hard to FEEL things myself and deal with things on an emotional level sometimes. I wonder if maybe that was purposeful? I don’t know, haven’t read it. But still I totally understand the need to FEEL the characters because I kind of feel that way too and it makes the reading experience almost life-like and just brings the book so much more close to real, ya know? At any rate, I still think I’d like to eventually pick this one up (with trepidation, is that the word) because of my girls and the things that I know exist out there in the world. Great review, Jamie! xo

  4. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers talk about the disconnect between Ashleigh and themselves. I feel like she’s not the most likable character. As if she doesn’t make a case to the reader to pity or feel sympathy for what happened to her. Is this how you felt Jamie? Great Review πŸ™‚

  5. I read this one a few weeks ago and actually really liked it! I don’t remember feeling any disconnect with the MC, but that’s just me. I felt horrified for her because omg can you imagine that happening to you? I would die of embarrassment. I really loved the ending, because I think that it was powerful without being preachy.

  6. I haven’t read the book, but I understand what you’re talking about. I also think it’s very important these issues get more attention. A lot of victims are called “sluts” and “whores”, but they aren’t all of that. They just made a mistake.. Unfortunate you didn’t really feel connected to the characters. That makes a story a lot better..

  7. I think this such an important topic to examine/discuss and so few books even go near it, let alone do it justice. And based on your review this book does seem to do that. And because of that I kind of want to check it out now. That being said, I’m nervous about not connecting with the story. Because with this kind of book you really need that connection. Otherwise I feel like I’m just being told about something, rather than relating/understanding.

  8. I really want to read this book! Even though I haven’t read it, from your review I think more teens and even college students should be reading this book as well. I’ve heard so many different girls from high school to college tell me that they sent naked pictures to their boyfriend. They “try” to be smart about it by not including their face… but still! I feel like unless you want to be involved in the porn industry, you shouldn’t have your naked body appear on camera. It’s too risky!

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