A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Thousand Words is about a girl who -- while drunk at a party with lots of heavy drinking -- takes a naked picture of herself that eventually goes viral. As a result, she has to endure humiliating teasing at school, in her town, and on her phone. There's some swearing and some kissing, and other characters include a suspected drug dealer and a pregnant teen. This is a cautionary tale about sexting, but it's also a powerful story about a girl learning to move on -- and define herself -- after making a devastating mistake. Parents may want to talk about the kids at Ashleigh's school who forwarded on the photo -- even though they weren't responsible for its initial dissemination. Since according to the book, "20 percent of teens have sent nude or seminude photos or videos of themselves to someone else," these are important topics to address. For advice, check out our Talking About Sexting article.
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What's the story?
Through flashbacks, Asheigh --a cross country runner with a good family and a long-term boyfriend -- reveals her devastating tale, which is straight from today's headlines: When she takes a naked picture of herself with her phone and sends it to her boyfriend, she intends it to be just for him. But right away she suspects Kaleb has shown it around. And when he breaks up with her, she learns an even more mortifying truth: In anger, he sent her private picture to almost everyone on his contacts list -- and now it's going viral. Even her dad has seen it. Worse, Ashleigh gets busted for distributing child pornography, and has to do court-ordered community service with other teen delinquents.
Is it any good?
Ashleigh's honest narration keeps THOUSAND WORDS from feeling like a scripted problem novel. She readily admits to feeling powerful when she sends her picture to Kaleb, and is equally honest about her mortification when the picture goes viral ("I closed my eyes. Nothing worked to keep the embarrassment from me. Being blind. Being deaf. Being frozen. Being an observer. Being silent. I still felt humiliated no matter what I was.") Readers will feel sick to their stomachs as things just get worse and worse -- but they will also admire her gradual realization that she doesn't have to let one bad decision define her for the rest of her life.
While an extreme situation, this book should help teens develop better cyber-sense so they don't take any kind of picture -- or forward any on -- without thinking of the potential consequences. Hopefully, it also will help them forgive themselves, and each other, when they do make errors in judgment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sexting. What would you do if a friend sent you a naked picture of someone you know? For more advice for having a thoughtful conversation, check out our article Talking About Sexting.
What do you think of how strongly school parents reacted to Ashleigh's picture going viral? What would happen at your school community if something like this happened?
Ashleigh's punishment includes having to write a brochure about the dangers of sexting. Is this a good punishment? Do you think teens are less likely to sext if they know the consequences?
- Author: Jennifer Brown
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: May 21, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 15 - 17
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 20, 2019
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