Book Review: A Thousand Words

Posted July 25, 2014 by Lyn Kaye in book review, Lyn / 8 Comments

Book Review: A Thousand WordsA Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on May 21st, 2013
Genres: contemporary, young adult
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

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’s novels always draw me in just on the simple fact that she writes about some powerful subjects that are happening now.  She has a wonderful way for approaching a groundbreaking cultural phenomenon and translating it into fiction.  A Thousand Words approaches the issue surrounding what we would now be deemed as “revenge porn.” While the book labels what happened in the novel as sexting, but I believe our current laws now place the events in the book into a new category.  This is just my personal take.  Just like The Hate List, there were some things I liked, and some things that picked at my reading senses.

First, I absolutely love that Brown’s novels veer away from Obligatory Romance®.  Her stories set out to educate as much as entertain, so I rely on her stories when I need a break from coupling exhaustion.  In A Thousand Words, Brown instead turns her focus on friendship instead of romance between people of the opposite sex. This makes the gender dynamic respect fall right into the minority category.  However, it felt a bit sad that the main male character lacked the god-like attributes of most other male leads.  I hope that, eventually, the main love interest can be a normal looking guy with a stellar personality, or a girl just ends just friends with the personified marble statue.  One can still hope.

The characters in this book are a bit flat, but I give these novels a pass since the story and the plot are the main focus of the writing.  Ashleigh doesn’t develop much as a character, and what changes we see tend to be external more than internal, such as her attitudes towards bullying and the relationship with her family.  I didn’t see much of difference in her maturity level or her emotional growth in the book, but, like I pointed out, this is a story to bring focus to a major concern for a younger generation. Can you have both? A hot topic paired with a well-developed lead? Sure. Sometimes, timing is key, and this book was set to break the silence on the topic.

I was slightly disappointed that Ashleigh never analyzed her own actions and her behaviors. No girl, EVER, deserves the treatment she received by her ex-boyfriend. That is disgusting, and people who engage in trading material, such as nudity shots and recorded sexual act in the name of payback, are cowards of the lowest kind. This does not dismiss the fact that Ashleigh needs to confront her own actions and attitude.  She accused her boyfriend several times of cheating on her with other girls when she had no solid proof, just suspicion based on things she heard in the background, and the fact that girls were answering his cell phone. She noted that Caleb always seemed distant from her, but it isn’t right, and it isn’t fair when you set these accusations on someone just on speculation.  Throwing a fit over someone’s behavior makes for a whole heap of bitterness, and labeling someone guilty with nothing solid only sets up someone as emotionally immature and unable to handle a relationship.

I wasn’t very thrilled with the secondary characters, outside of Mac, for the fact that everyone seemed aloof and nasty just for no reason.  They seemed more stand-in characters than fleshed out minor roles. Mac was quite charming, and I enjoyed his quiet demeanor and his back story. Brown’s novels have a way of wrenching your heart right into your stomach.

Conclusion

Despite some issues with the story, A Thousand Words was very informative and realistic when reflecting the aftermath of revenge porn and leaked sexting.  These issues are somewhat new ground for a young, tech-saturated generation, and using novels as a informational medium instead of a 300ish page scare tactic is refreshing. Setting up the story to centralize around the events after the fact, the criminal charges, and the social setting of such events was eye-opening and very heartbreaking. I wouldn’t hesitate to push for more literature like this in today’s school.

8 responses to “Book Review: A Thousand Words

    • Lyn

      I KNOW! Ashleigh was falsely accusing her boyfriend of cheating. The moral of the story was learning to do the right thing. She DID distribute child porn, and she was very wrong about what she did.
      Lyn recently posted…More Survey FunMy Profile

  1. Kat

    I’ve nominated you, Bekka, and Kara for the Sunshine Award! (Visit my blog for the info, so just click on my name there…)

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