Jennifer Brown had trouble finding her niche, but once she discovered it, there has been no looking back.
The former Lee’s Summit resident and 1990 Lee’s Summit High School graduate will celebrate the national release of her latest novel, “Thousand Words,” with a launch party at 2 p.m. May 25 at Reader’s World, 983 N.E. Rice Rd.
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, “Thousand Words” is the story of a young high school girl who takes a photo of herself at a swim party – without clothing – and sends it to her boyfriend as a going-away-to-college gift for him. After the couple calls it quits on the relationship, the boyfriend forwards the picture, and the photo goes viral, spreading throughout the girl’s high school and surrounding communities.
The fall out from the so-called sexting photo runs the gamut, and Brown, as the author, had plenty of fodder to work with to develop the story.
“It’s kind of timely,” Brown said May 22 from her home in Liberty, a day after the official release of her fourth book. “I do a lot of school visits, and over the years, I’ve had a lot of teachers and librarians talk to me about some of the problems that their district has had with cyber-bullying, bullying over cell phones and those kinds of photos being sent around as well.
“My first book centers on bullying, so when I visit a school it opens up a lot of conversation for that kind of thing. I realized after talking to many teachers about this, that this was something that needed to be addressed or talked about it.”
Brown has penned three other novels – “Perfect Escape,” “Bitter End,” and “Hate List.”
“Hate List,” Brown’s debut published in 2009, was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults in 2010, was honored as the Missouri Gateway Readers Award winner for 2011-2012, received a VOYA “Perfect Ten,” and also notched a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year honor.
Brown’s second offering, “Bitter End,” received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA, and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults. The book is also a Gateway Readers Award nominee for the 2013-14 school year.
“She’s always topical with her books,” said Jaime York, assistant manager at Reader’s World and a former classmate of Brown’s at Lee’s Summit High. “She aims at teenagers and that really helps a dialogue to happen between everyone and get the information out there. The new book is about the consequences of sexting, which runs rampant now. She’s very in tuned with what’s going on in the teenage world.”
York reached out to Brown to get the ball rolling on her launch party for “Thousand Words.”
“On a whim, I just remembered that she was a writer and she was local,” York said. “I thought, ‘why not reach out?’ I found out she had a new book and I wanted to see if she wanted to do something here. Luckily enough, it’s going to be a launch party for her. We’re very excited to have her here, and we’re looking forward for it to happen. It should be a good time.”
Christian Apodaca, manager or Reader’s World, said a national author celebrating the release of her latest book in Lee’s Summit is a great coup for readers in the area.
“She decided she wanted to do it locally; kind of bring it back home,” Apodaca said of Brown’s launch party, which will include gift bag giveaways. “That’s what she decided. We’re just lucky to have her.”
As for Brown finding her niche, she said the process of discovering her true writing voice was well worth the wait it took to score her first book deal. She started writing her initial book in 2000, retained an agent in 2006 and published “Hate List” three years later.
“It took me a really long time,” Brown said of her journey to being a published author. “It was amazing. Gosh, I had been working on it for so long, it was like a dream come true. I didn’t think it would actually happen. After awhile you kind of get numb to the rejection letters.
“I got hundreds of rejection letters over the years. The best way for me to get over those was to remind myself that getting rejection letters means I’m in the business. The other thing I did was to just keep writing; keep working on new stuff. If one isn’t working, the other might work.”