Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
Page Count: 272.
Genre: Contemporary young adult
Goodreads & Amazon
Ashleigh's boyfriend Kaleb is getting ready to leave for college, leaving her to suffer alone for two more years of high school. All she wants to do is hang out with him and soak up their last few weeks together, but he keeps shrugging her off to hang out with the guys on his baseball team. When Ashleigh confesses to her friends that she's worried he will forget her when he leaves for college, they give her a drunken solution: send him a naked photo that he will never forget. Filled with liquid confidence, it doesn't take much persuading to get Ashleigh naked, in front of a mirror in her friend's bathroom, and snapping a picture. It takes even less thought to hit 'send.' When Kaleb finally leaves for college, Ashleigh can't handle the lack of calls and visits, or the female 'study partners' who sometimes answer his cell when she calls. When their relationship ends in a nasty breakup, all it takes are three evil words to spark the flame that torches Ashleigh's reputation: PYBKS R HELL. Now Ashleigh, her family, and Kaleb must suffer the consequences of her drunken photo, and try to seek a sense of normalcy and a new start.
But for a moment during Vonnie's end-of-summer party, the volleyball game over and Rachel's nail tragedy a thing of the past, Vonnie drunkenly giggling on her chaise lounge again and a naked photo of me winging its way through cyberspace toward my boyfriend...at least for that moment...I knew I had his full attention. I knew that I had something that his boys would never have. It felt powerful. And when my phone vibrated in my pocket minutes after I'd sent the photo, a jolt of excitement surged through me. He'd received it. His text simply said: OMG.
This was my first Jennifer Brown reading experience, and I'd been looking forward to reading one of her books. I saw this one on a couple of other blogs, and I've had Hate List by her on my TBR list for a while. I thought the plot of teenage sexting was extremely relevant to this day and age, where it seems like this kind of thing is unfortunately happening all the time. Realistic fiction like this treads a fine line of being preachy, though, which made me a little hesitant, but I'm happy to report that Thousand Words was void preachiness, even in Ashleigh's community service group, where she is assigned to create a pamphlet about teen sexting. There are facts about sexting that leak into the story as she does her research, and Ashleigh regrets the drunken evening she hit "send" but I didn't feel like I was being talked down to as a reader, and I didn't feel like girls who did send text were made to sound like evil sluts, even though that's what everyone called Ashleigh anyway.
Back when I was born, my parents didn't own a computer yet. They didn't send emails or surf the Internet, and they certainly didn't send texts, much less picture texts. How much had changed in that short period of time. This would change, too, and soon nobody would care about the dumb photo I'd sent to my boyfriend back when people were doing something so outdated as texting. The thought gave me hope. If someone didn't mind tossing out a photo of their children having fun, surely eventually my photo would end up in recycle bins, too.
The stakes of this novel were what kept me engaged in this story. I thought the tense that Thousand Words is told in gave it too much distance and even though the emotions were raw, I didn't feel like I was standing right there with Ashleigh as the events were unfolding. I felt sorry for her, but in a way that didn't seem immediate. I was also at times confused about where I was at in the story, as it alternates chapters from her Community Service post-viral-picture, and the days following her sending the text in the first place. Each chapter that didn't involve her Community Service was started with a couple of the hate texts she received once her nude picture started getting sent around, even if the chapter took place in a time when the picture had not yet been leaked out. So there was some weirdish tense stuff. But ohhh boy the stakes! We see Ashleigh as a golden girl of sorts, full of ambition, good grades, and a place on the cross country team. Oh, and her father is super-intendent of the school district, not exactly a good career to be in when your daughter is in the midst of a sexting scandal.
I bit my lip as I typed in the words "sexting and teens" and hit "search." Articles popped up, one after another, and I groaned inwardly. Most of them were about me.
Thousand Words was an engaging read full of high stakes and realistic character interactions. Even though the tense was a little weird for the intense emotional story being told, I still felt Ashleigh's pain and was cheering for a positive outcome for her.
Have you read this? What did you think?