Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: realistic contemporary fiction, sexting, community service, break-up
Format read: ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!)
Summary: Ashleigh’s boyfriend, Kaleb, spreads a nude photograph she privately sent him after their break-up. Parents are infuriated by the photograph and provoke the school administrators to take action. Suspension from school isn’t enough; she’s arrested and sentenced to sixty hours of community service for distributing child pornography.
One text. One text has ruined Ashleigh’s life.
After about a year together, Ashleigh and Kaleb would soon face their greatest challenge — he would be leaving for college. Ashleigh wants to soak up every minute with Kaleb before he leaves, but he’s focused on spending time with his boys, and playing baseball every chance they get because they’ll be spread throughout the country at different schools.
Fed up with his abandonment, Ashleigh drunkenly confides in her friends, Vonnie and Rachel. They recommend she capture his attention by texting him a nude photo. How could he possibly ignore Ashleigh after that?
Fast-forward through the details of Kaleb’s departure and Ashleigh’s insecurity to their ugly, vengeful breakup. One thing leads to another, but Ashleigh never expected Kaleb to send out a mass text of her nude photo to every one of his contacts. The text is forwarded and shared and Ashleigh’s name and contact information are added to the photograph. Soon, Ashleigh finds herself in the middle of a sexting scandal that has her school in an uproar and she’s in trouble for distributing child pornography.
She faces sixty hours of community service as her court ordered sentence. She’s all alone — her relationship long over, friendships on the brink of destruction, she’s bullied, and her father’s superintendent job could be terminated. One seemingly innocent text has ruined Ashleigh’s clean record and reputation.
Thousand Words is the first experience reading Jennifer Brown. I’ve heard praises for her work by so many of my book-loving friends, and thankfully, can now join the choir to spread the word. Brown tackles a relevant and extremely difficult topic. Was Ashleigh wrong for sending the photo? Should she have gotten in trouble? What are the repercussions for Kaleb sharing the photo? There are so many complexities that make a resolution darn near impossible, but Brown explores each sector so well. Ashleigh goes through the ups and downs of feeling like she’d been pressured into sending the photograph, the anger at Kaleb for not being the upstanding guy she thought he was, and the devastation of realizing that she was as guilty as anyone else. If she hadn’t sent the text, none of this would have ever happened. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
Brown’s Thousand Words tells the very realistic tale of a situation that’s happening across the country. Laws are currently being revised in multiple states to tackle this situation. Ashleigh’s story isn’t easy to read — it’s uncomfortable and frustrating. I was angered by Ashleigh’s attitude and reluctance to accept responsibility for the part she played. She could be very “woe is me” and didn’t always have me convinced she was actually going to learn anything from the situation, other than pointing fingers at everyone else. (But, thankfully, a boy named Mack teaches her a lot about what it is to truly lose everything.) While Thousand Words isn’t a happy, feel-good read, Brown’s writing is spot-on. It’s beyond necessary for her story to be read, shared, and discussed.
Since I’m very much a Jennifer Brown newbie, can you tell me which of her books to read next?