Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

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Review: Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown
Thousand Words
Jennifer Brown
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: May 14th 2013
by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

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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.
-A copy was provided by Hachette Book Group Canada for review-

The first Jennifer Brown book I read made me an instant fan of her work, and Thousand Words shows me she has more than one story to tell; one she tells admirably. This time, we meet a girl – Ashleigh – who had her life turned upside down when a private picture text to her boyfriend goes viral.

With technology allowing us constant and worldwide communication, sexting is an issue that was not even possible when I was in high school (way to make me feel old!), so stories like these are real eye openers to the damages that an online world can have with a simple error in judgment. Especially to someone as young as Ashleigh who is in an age where you feel invincible, yet mistakes happen, friends often betray each other, and boyfriends rarely last. It also importantly points out how permanent things are online. Once words or pictures, are out there, there is no deleting them, ever. Not only does this book give us a realistic, well handled story of something so very undoable, so scandalous, it also sends an important message to teens who may not realize how easily a situation like this can come about. One thing I’m sure of: it can’t be easy to be a teen in these times, where everyone and everything is out in the open. (Ok, I’m not THAT old, we did have the internet — ICQ anyone? — but no one really used it much, then. *sigh* pre-Facebook times!)

A past and present POV is how we learn of Ashleigh’s story. We first meet her when she’s starting the community service she was sentenced to. While she’s slowly making a new friend and trying to make due with how tattered her life seems, we get regular chapters that go back to before anything ever happened. This is where we find out what lead to her taking a risk that she will regret for the rest of her life. Past and present POVs don’t always work, but for a story like this, I found it to be the perfect way to tell it. We’re able to get the emotional and mental ramifications of her ordeal from the start, making it so when we’re taken to her past we’re left cringing, for knowing what will come of it. It also makes it easy to put ourselves in her shoes, somehow. It’s like seeing her regret and humiliation makes her past mental status more accessible. Additionally, we’re shown how much growth her character was forced into by going from a girl who had it all (though she wasn’t in any way written as a stereotypical mean girl), to someone who only has regret. While some would have become an emotional mess in her shoes, I admired how strong Ashleigh stayed throughout all of it. She does have her breakdowns which are expected, but overall I loved how she becomes stronger for it. It would have been so easy to go melodramatic with this story, but Brown explores a different side: the side where the character does not get overrun with emotional and mental onslaught. Instead, Ashleigh takes back her life and that, to me, is the second most important message of the story. Even when things are at its worse, how you react and take charge of your mistakes are what will make a difference in the end.

Like all Jennifer Brown books, Thousand Words has just the right amount of heart, friendship, family, and emotion; it grabs you, but it remains a quick and easy read nonetheless.

4 Stars
4 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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26 Responses to “Review: Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown”

  1. Sam

    It’s interesting to hear that it’s told from both the past and present POV of the main character. I haven’t encountered that approach very often, but the few times that I have haven’t really worked for me. I’m hoping this one will be different. 🙂 Lovely review, Giselle! This sounds like a really solid and relevant contemporary tale. I’m glad it worked for you!

    And what’s ICQ? 😉

  2. Aman

    Why was she sentenced to community service? I feel so bad for her. Stupid laws! I can see why this book would be an eye-opener for everyone including teens. Recently I read My Life After Now and I loved the awareness it in, and I think Thousand Words would be something like that. I’m definitely going to add it to my tbr! It looks very promising! Thanks for the lovely review, Giselle 🙂

  3. Savannah Bookswithbite

    I so need to read thus book. There have been lots of stories covering this type of act and I think the way social media is now…you have to be so careful with what you write and send people. Nice review.

  4. Lauren Elizabeth

    I’m excited to read this! I read stories like this all the time in the news and it’s so incredibly relevant to teens today, and also just a general lesson in being circumspect about all your online/text interactions. I’m glad the past and present POVs worked well for you, and that the story didn’t get too melodramatic. That is tempting when writing about harsh consequences of thoughtless actions, so it’s great that Brown avoided it. Wonderful review, can’t wait to read this for myself now! 🙂

  5. Megan K.

    So glad you enjoyed this! It’s great that Thousand Words was an eye-opener for you – most of the time, YA contemporaries tend to deal with tough issues that are… well, dealt with almost all the time. But sexting is something new, and I’m glad that Jennifer Brown was able to portray it so well. I kind of wish there was more depth to the story, instead of it being too light and easy, you know? Anyhow, I still can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Great review!

  6. Alexa Y.

    This book intrigues me! I love that you mentioned that it plays around with using both the past and present POV of the main character, as I think it makes the character even easier to relate to and understand. I hope I get a chance to read this one soon!

  7. Rachel @ Unforgettable Books

    Wow! Terrific review! Ashleigh sounds like an amazing character since she is able to grow from such dire circumstances. Reminds me of Quinn from If I Lie. I cannot imagine the days where internet was not common.
    ICQ, huh? Never heard of that. is it the name for coded computers?

  8. Amy

    I really want to read this one. I haven’t read any of her books, but this sounds like one that I would really like. After reading both yours and Jenni’s reviews, I feel like I have to read this one.

  9. Megan Hand

    Ha, I totally remember pre-facebook times! You are NOT old! 🙂 I have a couple other Jennifer Brown books but still have not gotten to them. I’ve heard they are awesome. Really need to. I can’t imagine sexting. *hides face in embarrassent* That would be so awkward. Anyhoo, great review!

  10. Michelle

    LOL Sexting wasn’t available when I was in HS either…. oh the simpler times!! I have this book pre-ordered and I can’t wait for it, J.Brown is one of my favs!

    • Melanie

      *strangles self* if go can still read those deleted comments on MINE, then that would be the best. I need to get my own computer now, so I don’t keep accidentally commenting under my sister’s name. URGH. (When will she learn to log out) *sigh* Great review, Giselle! Ignore my weirdness and my spam. I’m just becoming crazier the second.

      BYE! <33 *stumbles away awkwardly*

  11. Jennifer Bielman

    This sounds like a book I would hate. Why, because I hate injustice. She gets community service for doing what?? Sending a private picture to someone she trusted? Such BS. How about the people who share things that they know are private get in trouble. The whole situation just pisses me off.

    I know, I know, I am being ridicules, I just feel like the bullies of today get praised and the victims get punished more than they already have been.

    Anyways, I am sure it’s a great book but I think it would infuriate me more than entertain me.

    • Giselle

      Lol yeah because she’s a minor, her sending a naked picture to someone online makes it child pornography. Any minor who does that can be charged for it. It’s dumb when it’s your own picture, but it’s the law. She’s not the only one who got charged though the ex who shared it to everyone else got in much more shit–especially that he was NOT a minor. So it’s satisfying! 😉

  12. Maja (The Nocturnal Library)

    We’re the same age, Giselle! If you’re old, I’m old, so hush. 🙂
    Clearly this is something that needs to be talked about, that worries me a lot both as a person and as a mother and I’m glad it was done so well by Brown.
    Like you, I’m not usually a fan of jumpst through time in books, but if you say it works here, it works.
    Thanks for the great review.

  13. Siiri

    Community service? What? I have this on my tbr pile on GR and I’m not even sure why I added it since I had no idea what it’s about as it comes out. I am in love with how it sounds and I’ve heard Brown’s work is magnificent and alluring. I don’t usually like past-present stories, but I did absolutely adore If I Stay and Where She Went so hopefully I’ll enjoy this one too? Maybe? I hope. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much, hon!

  14. Christina

    Sexting scandals probably WERE possible when I was in high school, but cell phones weren’t quite ubiquitous yet. Plus, people mostly weren’t glued to them the way they are now, because the iPhone/smart phone didn’t exist. I blame them for this. Also, the cameras on the phones were pathetic, so it would probably be like “oh look at that fleshy lump. Is that a boob?”