by Jennifer Brown
Genre: YA Contemporary
Hardback: 288 Pages
Publication: May 21, 2013 by Little Brown BFYR
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.
◆ A copy was provided by Little Brown for review ◆
The story alters between the past when Ashleigh gets herself into the sexting scandal and the present when Ashleigh is serving time doing community service by creating a pamphlet on sexting. Through the alternating storylines, we get a better feel for who Ashleigh is and how the sexting scandal impacts her life.
It was hard to relate to Ashleigh. If I hadn't met her during community service first... if I hadn't met her after the sexting scandal changed her life... I doubt I'd have given her a chance. As it is, I have a love-hate relationship with Ashleigh. I think the biggest problem is that we come from such different areas of life. Though Ashleigh was an honors student, she is a party girl. She drinks, she makes out a lot with Kaleb, and she's clingy. She causes the breakup because of her inability to trust Kaleb, and I think she realizes this later on. And both she and Kaleb hold partial responsibility for the sexting scandal, another fact that she acknowledges.
At the same time, I do sympathize with her. The whole point of this novel is how situations can fall out of our control so easily. Ashleigh is a normal girl. And as much as I disprove of what she did, she did text the nude photo of herself out of love, though later events prove how fragile her love was. She never had sex with her boyfriend, but people begin calling her a slut, both in person and online where people have posted her picture. She's afraid to go out because she doesn't know who has seen her photo and what they'll say to her. And she has to live with the guilt at home with an angry father and disappointed mother on top of her own shame and embarrassment. All because she was desperate to keep her boyfriend's affections. Looking at her story from this light, it's really sad what happens to her.
At the center where Ashleigh puts in her community service hours, she finds healing--through research on sexting and also her meeting with Mack, a large boy who offers solid friendship and a unique, albeit brutally honest, perspective on life. Mack is a quiet guy who doesn't say much about himself; because of that, everything he says and does has significance. He doesn't rush into things. I think this is important to Ashleigh because she needs someone who doesn't judge her based off a rash decision she made while intoxicated. I also like the friendship that forms between them. It's nice to see a novel where the romance is in the past, where a guy and girl can meet without sparks flying between them.
Thousand Words is about how while a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, it still can't tell the full story. It is a story about healing, forgiveness (of both yourself and others), and the reality of life. Ashleigh and Kaleb can't undo their actions, and they have to live with what they did for the rest of their lives. What they can do, what Ashleigh chooses to do, is move forward. I like how the story ends on a note of hope before the full conclusions of all the effects of Ashleigh's actions because this is what she needed, what we need to see from her story. I recommend this for those looking for a realistic novel portraying teen issues.