Review: Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown


Thousand WordsTitle: Thousand Words

Author: Jennifer Brown

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publication Date: May 21, 2013

Source: ARC received in a trade

Synopsis: 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.

☆: 4/5 stars – Comes dangerously close to after-school-special territory, but it’s still a good novel.

If it weren’t for the main character of this novel sharing my name and unusual spelling (I can recall two other books/series using my name and that’s it), I probably wouldn’t have read it. People read books for all sorts of unusual reasons, so I guess it doesn’t matter in the end. What does matter is that I read the novel and I’m glad I did. It’s not enough to make me purchase Brown’s backlist, but it isn’t a novel I’ll be getting rid of anytime soon.

Sexting is a difficult topic to tackle and make approachable at the same time because it takes very little to make it feel like an after-school special. Thousand Words veers dangerously close to such territory due to characters that lack depth for the most part. It almost feels as if they exist just to get this message across, which isn’t how it should work. Then there are moments that make the experience too real, like the fauxpology Kaleb gives Ashleigh. It’s clear both in and out of the text that he isn’t sorry and he’s using an apology likely written by his lawyer to try and get some leniency. That’s something that goes beyond sexting scandals and permeates real life more than any of us care to remember.

Like the story itself, Ashleigh as a character feels like a cautionary tale in most moments, but the fauxpology brought up above was one of her shining moments, as was her confrontation with Rachel. She indulges in a little slut-shaming, but she only does it when Rachel does it first in a pejorative way and she always uses in a challenging way, not to put other girls down. THIS is how you use it in a story, people, especially when the novel has to do with sex and it seems slut-shaming is inevitable.

The novel is short and weaves together the aftermath of Ashleigh’s community service sentence with the events that led to her sentence, but it can feel a little slow sometimes. The moments are rare, so that’s okay. Also, one thing I love about this book? No romance! Sure, the jacket copy implies she’s going to have a romance with Mack, but she doesn’t. They develop a friendship that might become a romance after the novel’s end, but we’ll never know. Also, funny thing: we don’t learn in-novel that Mack got the text but didn’t look until the very last pages. Either way, Brown recognized this wasn’t a book that needed a romance. A round of applause for the lady! Agents and publishers, please pay attention.

Like I said, this isn’t enough to make me seek out Brown’s backlist like a wolf who hasn’t had fresh rabbit in weeks, but if she can write a novel with a premise that appeals to me on more than just the basis of a character’s name, I’m willing to read it. I can definitely see why she’s such a popular YA writer and keeps getting deals for more books: she knows what she’s writing about.

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