For What It's Worth

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

12283331Ashleigh'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. ~ Goodreads

Source: ARC copy provided by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for my honest review

Sexting. This is such a timely topic that brings home all the repercussions of technology and teens in todays world. I can honestly say that I am SO glad that I am not a teenager growing up under the harsh glare of Twitter/Facebook/YouTube and cell phones.  I was already a sensitive kid that got picked on and I don't think I would make it out well adjusted having my life and mistakes played out for my high school - and sometimes the world to see. But I digress…

In Thousand Words, what starts out as a drunken dare to send Ashleigh's boyfriend, Kaleb, a nude picture of herself so he won't forget her when he leaves for college spins into an out of control scenario that ruins Ashleigh's life and Kaleb's future.

Because Ashleigh is under 18 she & Kaleb (who is over 18 yrs old) are accused of distributing child pornography.  Ashleigh receives community service and unless Kaleb can get her to forgive him for sharing the picture and talk the judge into leniency he could become a registered sex offender ruining his chances at ever becoming a teacher and even have restrictions visiting his parents since they live near a school.

There are so many things from this story that touched a nerve with me and had me screaming at the book or taking a long look at the crime vs the punishment. Ashleigh gets community service as punishment. I'm like punishment for what?? It's a picture of herself. Dumb yes but why should she be punished? Isn't it bad enough that she's constantly harassed and all the adults have decided to make an example of her and her family? What about all the other people sending and re-sending the picture?
My blood just boiled at the judgment Ashleigh's classmates and fellow community service group pass on her. The guys constantly proposition her and the girls are jealous that their boyfriends have her naked picture on their cellphones. The thing is, this is the ONLY time Ashleigh has ever done anything like this. Kaleb is a total ass but I couldn't help thinking that labeling him a sexual predator was excessive. 

Told in alternating present and past tense we are able to get a full picture of what led to Ashleigh doing such a dumb thing and Kaleb's equally stupid retaliation after their breakup and the current repercussions for both of them. What's scary is that everything these two say and do is pretty standard in any high school relationship/breakup. This could happen to anyone of of us. All of us have acted on impulse and raw emotion at some point. The thing about the internet is that you can't take it back. Ever.

Ok - so it sounds like I'm raving about the book at this point but….even though it stirred a lot of emotion because of the topic and it made me question things I didn't feel that strong of a connection to any of the characters. I didn't especially like Ashleigh (which is fine - she doesn't need to be perfect) she learns a lesson obviously but still came off self centered and snobby most of the time. I'm not sure what to think of Kaleb. He's portrayed as the perfect boyfriend at first and then seems to go off the rails at some point. Drifting apart is ok but he gets downright ugly about things. Was he always a selfish asshole? I couldn't really tell.  Ashleigh's friends are immature and deserved a lesson or two as well. The one bright spot is the boy she meets at community service, Mack. He kind of anchors the whole story and Ashleigh but I found him so much more interesting that I kept wanting to hear his story instead. Their interactions were the best because he brings out another dimension to Ashleigh and not in a romantic way which I liked.

A few major plot points (like the fate of her father's job - what happens to Kaleb) were brought up and either wrapped up quickly or brushed over. I wish the story stayed a little more focused overall. The intensity level was up & down.

Final thoughts: Interesting and relevant story about teenagers and the consequences of social media. I would recommend it just to get a dialogue going, especially between teenagers and parents but the writing was a little inconsistent and kept the story and message from being as powerful as it could have been IMO.

Author: Goodreads | Website
Buy the book! Thousand Words


  1. Ah this one sounds interesting. I'm also happy that Facebook was only a dream in a college-student's head when I was at school. We had enough drama with note-passing and whispered gossip in the changing rooms!

    Shame the characters weren't that memorable, but I'm curious to see how this one pans out.

    1. It was still good....and a really interesting topic. Just didn't have the impact I hoped that it would.

      High School is so scary now!

  2. Glad it was a good topic, but sorry you didn't connectwith the main characters

  3. I'm intrigued and I'd be willing to give it a shot based on your revie even with the flaws you highlighted. Thanks for sharing

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

  4. I just finished a Jennifer Brown book and really liked it, so I'll probably pick this one up if it comes my way. I think the topic is interesting, though I do worry it will be a little preachy. Thanks for the review!

    1. I didn't love it but it wasn't preachy at all. The story and what happens to Ash is a good enough deterrent.

  5. Nah, this one does not do it for me

  6. The inconsistency makes me not want to read it. Such an important topic to treat it that way.

    Oh and I was with you when reading the review... WHY was she punished? He needed to be and slapped upside the head as well. LOL Guess, I shouldn't read this one on my ereader. Don't want to throw it. :D

    1. I would still give it a shot. It was good, just a little uneven.

      Didn't even think the boyfriend deserved all the punishment he was facing. He was such a jerk though. The whole situation left me very conflicted.

  7. I can see your points but I agree that things were touched on lightly and agree with some those points you brought up :)
    High school is scary

  8. I'm not really a fan of books that have a great plot but sort of meh characters because I usually feel like they deserve what they get. :/ It's pretty wild what the justice system does with sexting/sex offenders, but I guess there has to be a line somewhere to protect people who may not be old enough to deal with the consequences of sending a naked picture of themselves. It's a great topic, like you said. Julie is right, being a kid in high school is scary now!

    Terrific review, Karen!!

  9. Holy crap this plot sounds like it was ripped from the headines. I can see why certain aspects bothered you or just didn't resonate with you, but the way it's told sounds interesting.

  10. I read it and was really bothered too that she received community service for child pornography - it was a picture of herself. Her body, she should be able to do what she wanted to with it. Such an interesting topic.