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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

Title: Thousand Words
Author: Jennifer Brown
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
Publishing House: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316209724
Source of Copy: Fully Booked


Ashleigh's boyfriend, Kaleb, is about to leave for college. So at a legendary end-of-summer pool party, Ashleigh's friends suggest that she text him a picture of herself - sans swimsuit - to take with him. Before she can change her mind, Ashleigh has snapped a photo and hit "send".

But when Kaleb and Ashleigh go through a bad breakup, Kaleb forwards 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. In the midst of the scandal, Ashleigh feels completely alone - and she meets Mack at 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.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Ashleigh seemed to have it all going for her: good looks, a social life, and a college-bound boyfriend. When she sends a photo of herself naked to her boyfriend, she didn't expect him to forward it to everyone as payback for her friends' prank. The photo scandal caught the attention of basically everyone in town, something that doesn't obviously sit well with her superintendent dad and teacher mom. In community service, she isn't treated well by the other kids either - save for Mack. Mack who doesn't pass judgment, Mack who doesn't force her to answer questions, Mack who didn't look at the photo. And for someone in Ashleigh's predicament, that is a very huge deal.

What I like about Brown's characters is that they all come off as very natural. Ashleigh was very easy to like. She felt like the kind of girl everyone was friends with. She's actually pretty smart, and she is the last person you'd think who would have a photo scandal. Ashleigh has done an incredible job of maturing throughout the course of the novel, which of course, made the novel all the more better for me. When you have a protagonist who can truly own herself, you know she's a winner.

And just before you think Mack is the new friend Brown's thrown in to act as Ashleigh's romantic interest, let me tell you now that you're wrong. How many contemporary young adult books are already out there with a girl meeting this totally amazing, adorable guy when she finds herself in a difficult situation? Exactly. What I get from Brown's story is that there will not always be that gorgeous guy when we're facing our problems. Realistically speaking, we just need a really good friend who will help us gain clarity and perspective to triumph over the problems. 

Thousand Words actually gives a good perspective for people as to how teens who face problems like sexting could possibly live normally afterwards. When the media discloses information about such a scandal, the usual reaction is that we wind up getting horrified, but forget all about it by next week. But for that person, next week would be no better than the week before, or the week before. That person will live the consequences with his/her actions for the rest of his life, especially when we live in a digital age where information is easily circulated and stored. Brown wasn't condemning any teens who have fallen victim to sexting. She was actually trying to reinforce people who have fallen under the same scandal that yes, you made a mistake. But so what? Life goes on. You move on. You don't give your mistake power over you. And inasmuch as Brown is giving strength to these people, she also calls out to everyone to empathize with them instead of demoralize. 

We live in an age where we think it's normal to be cruel to each other because we have all this information on our hands, but we honestly could do better. 

It then goes without much saying that Thousand Words is highly recommended, and if you're looking to gain a fresh perspective, pick this one up.


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