Title: Just Listen
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: April 6, 2006
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.
When I first started blogging and asked a friend for some YA recommendations, she told me that Sarah Dessen’s books were really good. So I ended up buying 4 or 5 of them, and then they sat on my TBR pile neglected. Why is this a recurring theme with my books? Alas, this weekend I decided to finally make the dive and read Just Listen. And again, I wish I would have picked it up sooner!
Annabel is in high school and has been modeling since she was a baby. Her two older sisters, Whitney and Kristen, are also models, but that is where the similarities end. Kristen can talk your ear off for hours and tends to overshare information. Whitney is very reserved and quiet, but when she gets angry she knows how to cut to the quick. And Annabel possess some qualities from each sister, but doesn’t feel like she really knows herself. Combine that with a falling out with her best friend because of a terrible guy, and you get a very confused and lost Annabel. That is, until she starts talking to Owen, the reserved “bad boy” at school.
I loved how this book dealt with very difficult topics – sexual abuse, eating disorders, and depression among others – but never felt too heavy that it emotionally drained you. Whitney was such a strong character, really fighting back from her disorder. And Annabel (the strongest character by far) really progressed throughout the book. The beginning of the book deals with her relationships with Clarke, Emily, and Sophie, and how they all fell apart after the “episode” with Will. The middle discusses Annabel and Owen’s budding friendship and Annabel starting to become more open and honest about her feelings. And the end wraps up how Annabel has defeated her demons and is starting to move forward with her life. Without Owen, I don’t think Annabel could have survived through all of her ordeals. I absolutely loved everything about this book and can’t wait to read the rest that are waiting ever so patiently for me on my bookshelf!