Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen


Pages: 383
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: April 6, 2006
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Last year, Annabel was "the girl who has everything" — at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf's Department Store. This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen's help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends."
Annabel and her two sisters are models and are known in their suburban town for their good looks, along with living in a glass house designed by their architect father.  Annabel is the youngest in the family and spends her free time modeling even though her heart isn't in it; after all, she doesn't want to disappoint her mother.  Her older sister, Kirsten, has moved to New York City and the middle sister, Whitney, has also followed Kirsten in order to pursue her modeling career further.  While Kirsten and Whitney are living in the big city, Whitney suffers from anorexia and Kirsten tries to warn her parents how serious of an issue this is for Whitney, but their mother sort of brushes it off and makes excuses.  Meanwhile, Annabel is your average high school student except she starts off her junior year without Sophie, her best friend, who won't speak to her due to a fight they had over summer break.  In fact, Sophie has become a bit of a bully at school and Annabel is feeling even more isolated. That is until she meets Owen at lunch who also is a bit of a loner and they bond over his love for eccentric music.  One thing is for sure: Annabel's junior year is going to be an interesting one.  Sarah Dessen's Just Listen is an enjoyable novel that made me think, laugh, and cry.  Although it wasn't my favorite of her books, I still found it entertaining and Dessen balanced serious issues with some lighthearted moments very well.

Annabel is the type of all-American girl that could live next door to you. She is pretty nice, good looking, from a nice family, does well in school, etc, but behind the walls of her glass house is a family that is struggling.  Her mother doesn't want to address the real issues in the family (her sister's anorexia) and instead wants to sweep everything under the rug, which makes things complicated for the sisters.  Annabel, being the type of girl who wants to please her mom, can't even tell her mother she doesn't want to model anymore for fear of upsetting her. So, needless to say, the family dynamic isn't perfect, but instead was flawed and very realistic as only Dessen can expertly portray.

Dessen does a really good job in all of her novels demonstrating the ups and downs of friendship, especially between females, and that is also the case in Just Listen. Her complex friendship with Sophie was very realistic and also troubling. I think many teenagers can relate to Annabel's struggle to fit in and become friends with "popular" Sophie.  Readers will wonder why Sophie and Annabel don't get along anymore and slowly Dessen plants clues and uses foreshadowing for readers to figure out what exactly sparked this huge fight.  

Once Annabel meets Owen in Just Listen, she starts to learn more about herself and about true friendship, because Owen is the type of guy who speaks his mind and keeps it real.  Through him Annabel gains self-confidence as well as the ability to stand up for herself and speak her truth. I loved this about their relationship and was a fan of Owen from the beginning. Also, through music, he teaches her to be more open-minded and not judge and instead just listen.  I love that.

As I mentioned before, Just Listen wasn't my favorite of Dessen's novels, but I still really enjoyed Annabel's journey. Just Listen was a bit darker than I was expecting, but I think Dessen handled the subject matter very well and the tone of the overall novel wasn't overly morose; there were definitely moments that made me smile and laugh.  So, if you are a fan of Dessen and have overlooked this novel, I urge you to check it out, especially if you like realistic books, because Dessen has created characters here that are truly authentic and you feel like you know them.


10 comments:

  1. Great review! So glad you liked Just Listen. It's not my favorite Dessen either, but it's up there.

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    1. I'm glad you liked it too….Dessen is so talented and I'll read anything she writes. Thanks for visiting, Ellen!

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  2. Our teens love Sarah Dessen, so I've been meaning to read a few of her best! Which are your favorites?

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    1. My favorite Dessen novels are: Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride…both are fantastic! Thanks for visiting!

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  3. It's been such a long time since I read this book. But it was remarkable enough that I remember how much I enjoyed it. I also love this feature! Goodness knows I have hundreds of books sitting unread behind the stacks. Lol.

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    1. I know…it's so bad…I need to start reading the books I own, which is why I started this new feature, but have only read three this year that are "older." It's hard with so many exciting books coming out. Thanks for visiting!

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  4. Great review, Christina! This looks like a pretty good one, thank you for sharing! Hope you are having a good week, so far!

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    1. Thank you! I love Dessen and will read anything by her. Thanks for checking out my review.

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  5. This is the first Sarah Dessen novel that I read and it made me a fan. I am glad you liked it too. I think I read Speak around the same time and that one had more of an emotional impact because of the way it is written but they both deal with similar topics in different ways.

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    1. Would you believe I haven't read Speak yet? I know, I know. I need to. I just need to be in the right frame of mind, but anyway, I really enjoyed this book and so glad I got around to it. Thanks for visiting, Christina!

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