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JFH Staff Book Review

Speak Love: Making Your Words Matter

Annie F. Downs
Speak Love: Making Your Words Matter

Page Count: 256 Pages
Street Date: August 25, 2013

Today's world is one of constant communication, and seldom can you find yourself in a state of absolute isolation. This incessant and never-ending saturation in ideas and conversation has many upsides, but it also has far too many downsides. Many teens in this day and age find themselves inundated with the influx; many more find themselves being bullied within it. In Annie F. Downs' book Speak Love, cyberbullying is just one of the many topics she covers. Her overall point is to speak words that give life wherever we go, and to avoid words that give death.

Speak Love starts out a bit slowly. Downs covers how communication with God is key before communication with others can reach a peak of love and constructive language. The entire first part of the book is dedicated to prayer, reading the Bible, connecting with God, and staying in relationship with Christ. Focusing so centrally on a relationship with God is applauded, for in today's culture, focusing far too much time on outside sources draws our eyes away from Him should we let it. (I speak from experience when I say that distraction is prevalent and easy to fall into.) Downs does a good job on getting to the core about why a relationship with God is so vitally important to one's own life.

The second part deals in the area of using our words to speak love (hence the title) and how when we are right with God, then things will iron out and we will begin to see where we are not speaking love. Downs handles real-life issues such as "Mean Girls," celebrities being people, cyber interactions, and our own words in such a way as to make the reader feel everything is conversational and never accusatory. Her tone never comes off as snobbish or as if she's speaking down to us. That in itself I appreciate. However, I found myself wandering over asides that only muddled the flow of her writing. Once she gets going, Downs has a nasty habit of throwing in side comments and unneeded information that chops up the smoothness in her writing. I understand the "conversational" aspect; I disagree with the need for "conversational" to muddy up its own waters by way of too much conversation.

Throughout the entire book, Downs puts in Scripture that emphasizes her point and reveals the absolute Biblical need for words of love and life. I find no fault with this. In fact, I think that in terms of this being categorized as a "Religion & Spirituality" book, the Scripture that Downs puts in stays relevant to everything she's saying; unfortunately, not all "inspirational" books do the same, driving irksome prickles under my skin every time I see it done. Downs gave me no prickles. The only thing I would recommend for next time is that she keep her translations to a minimum. The NIV served her absolutely fine in most cases, and every time she threw in the parallel verse from The Message, the only thing it did was muddle up the flow of her manuscript.

Let me continue in this vein. Near the end of the book, Downs started to become a tad repetitive in her points and what she was saying. While the encouragement to young women across every spectrum was great, the third part of the book drew far too heavily on parts one and two. A short conclusion would have sufficed in wrapping up her points and bringing them about to a tight close. Instead, Downs meanders back and forth with things we've heard already-and probably three or four times, to boot. Should a second edition be released, I would suggest revisions to tighten flow and cut massive repetition.

Downs' message in Speak Love is a well-needed one that is being broadcast, if you will, from every corner in the fields of encouragement. Teen girls will find her conversational tone warm and inviting, and no doubt they will take away everything they needed to hear when the last page of the book turns. With minor adjustments and some heavy editing for future editions, Downs' book will come into its own as a powerhouse of encouragement to whomever reads it.

- Review date: 11/29/13, written by Caitlin Schesser of


. Publisher: Zondervan / HarperCollins
. Page Count: 256 Pages
. Street Date: August 25, 2013
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It: (Paperback)
. Buy It: (Kindle)


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