Title: Just Listen
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publication Date: February 28th, 2008
Annabel Greene seems to be the girl she portrays in commercials and modelling shoots: the girl who has it all. However, Annabel’s life is not as simple as it appears. She begins the school year friendless, having to eat lunch with Owen Armstrong, the “angriest boy in school.” One of her older sisters suffers from a severe eating disorder that stemmed from her modelling career. Annabel herself has grown disinterested in modelling, but feigns interest for the sake of her mother. She is also keeping a secret about what actually happened the night that Sophie and her ended their friendship. As the school year progresses, Annabel begins an unlikely friendship with Owen, an intense music lover who vows to always tell the truth. Although Annabel thought that she could hide from her problems, she learns the importance of speaking the truth and being honest with others, and most importantly, with herself.
I read this book in May, and it was the fourth Sarah Dessen book I've read (I have also read The Truth About Forever, Someone Like You and That Summer). I’m not really big on romance/chick lit, but overall I liked this book. One of the themes of the novel is simply “Don’t think or judge, just listen.” Very simple, but also something a lot of people could benefit from learning. Music is a big part of Just Listen, which is one of the things I liked. I was first interested in this novel because I liked the idea of two people getting to know each other through sharing music. I thought Owen was a really believable character, similar to a lot of the people I knew in high school. He’s an outsider who underwent anger management after receiving a court order for fighting another boy at school. I’m not a fan of the typical perfect heartthrob you sometimes see in romance novels, and Owen is far from that. I thought Annabel and Owen’s relationship was really believable, especially since it began as friendship and developed over time. Owen is very insightful and some of the best quotes in the book are from him. I was also really interested in the subplot between Annabel’s older sisters, Kirsten and Whitney, who had a falling out after Kirsten told their parents about Whitney’s eating disorder. I felt like Annabel was actually over-shadowed by Owen and her sisters, who I found more interesting than her. Two things that worked really well in this novel were the use of flashbacks and the suspense created about what actually happened to Annabel. A lot of serious issues are addressed, and I think that Dessen did a good job at portraying all of these issues accurately. Her books may not be highly original (a lot of people complain that the plots are too similar in her novels) but she is a good enough writer that this doesn’t matter too much.
Overall, I liked this book and would recommend it to someone looking for a good lighter read. I’ve only read four of Dessen’s books, but I find that when I have no idea what to read next, I can always count on one of her books to be a enjoyable.
“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.”