Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: April 6, 2006
Age Level: Young Adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Buy: Amazon | Indiebound
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.
This was such a good read. Dessen has an amazing way of writing stories about real relationships and real issues. I read Just Listen when the WSJ article came out about the darkness of YA books. The article and the overwhelming response from book bloggers/authors/readers (trended on Twitter with #YAsaves hash tag) put this book in a whole new light for me. This is a perfect example of how YA novels save lives. In Just Listen, Dessen tackles eating disorders, self-image, and overcoming assault. She doesn't hold back, and I love her for it!
Annabel and her family live in a glass house. Cars that pass by slow to look in on their "perfect" family eating dinner together. On the outside, Annabel seemingly has the perfect life. What people don't see is her family in shambles, and that she has been living with a secret which is the cause of her self-imposed isolation.
I simply enjoyed reading this book. It's leisurely paced, with great character development. I did have a hard time with Annabel keeping her secret for so long. At times I wanted to shake her (and her mother) to make her get with the program. But I know there are girls out there that would have reacted the same way in her position. I also wished there was more romance, though I did like sweetness of the slow building relationship between Annabel and Owen.
Just Listen is about honesty... being honest with others and most importantly yourself. This is now my favorite Sarah Dessen novel.