Sunday, 4 November 2012

Book Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

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.

Number of Pages: 383
Publishing Date: April 6th 2006
Publishing Company: Viking Juvenile

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Who Recommended it to Me: A bookstore employee
Who I'd Recommend it To: Every teenage girl in the entire world, simply put. 

My Review:

When my dad brought this book back from London after a business trip, I was excited.  Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors and I had yet to read every book by her.  Apparently, an employee at my favorite bookstore in London had recommended this for a 13-year-old girl, and my dad had bought it for me and brought it back.  I anticipated the experience of reading it, as Sarah Dessen's books always hit me incredibly hard.  This time, though, I had no idea what I was about to read. 

Seventeen-year-old Annabel Greene is the girl who has it all.  She's tall, blond, beautiful, and popular.  She's a model who people recognize.  But the reader finds out that she's so much more than a pretty face.  Annabel struggles with the ever-present fact that her sister is getting treatment for serious anorexia, but most of all the fact that everyone has turned on her now.  She's not popular anymore.  Instead, every day she sits alone on the wall by the school, eating her lunch as her used-to-be best friend, Sophie, throws vicious insults at her.  "Slut." "Bitch." "Whore."  The remarks don't seem to ever stop.  But Annabel is living with a secret that's suffocating her--the fact that at a party at the end of the previous year, she was sexually assaulted by Sophie's boyfriend.  

For many weeks, Annabel is alone.  No one knows about the terrible thing she went through, and while she sits sombrely Sophie is surrounded by a gaggle of talking, laughing girls.  But there's this one person who changes everything.  It's Owen Armstrong, the definition of a "bad boy" at first glance.  But like Annabel might seem just a pretty face at first glance but runs deeper, Owen is the same way.  He's music-obsessed, a ponderer of life and music and honesty.  He is led to believe Annabel is honest but really has no idea of her problems.  Slowly, Annabel and Owen begin to fall in love, but Owen still has no clue what her problems are.  He knows a bit about her sister's anorexia and her social struggle, but he doesn't find out why until the end of the book. 

This book reminded me of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson in the sense that there is a girl hiding away from something that has haunted her for months.  When I finished the book, I cried. I actually did, and I don't often cry during books.  I felt sad, lonely, but ridiculously happy at the same time.  Annabel and Owen.  There's so much insta-love and stupid relationships in young adult literature these days, but Annabel and Owen's relationship was so real.  Like nothing I'd ever read about before.  If I had been any younger when I read this book I don't think it would have hit me as hard.  It was amazing.  Unreal, to tell you the truth. 

The plot is crystal clear, the writing pure and smooth, like creamy chocolate icing.  It was easy to read, not entirely challenging, but the story had so many layers it made me think.  The part of the book that had the wheels in my brain turning was when Whitney was reading her story in front of her two sisters, and when Kirsten showed her family the video of the two girls on the bikes, and when Annabel confessed everything that had happened in the past year to her family, and when Annabel and Owen shared that kiss after their nails-on-a-chalkboard fight.  

To me, the main theme in this story is family.  How completely messed up families can be but then turn out even more beautiful and valuable when everything is solved.  It was amazing, seeing that family as a precarious glass vase, then falling down and shattering, and cutting people's feet as they tried to step over the pieces, until finally someone comes in rubber gloves and picks up the pieces and tosses them in the trash, so that the broken pieces are gone, and then someone buys a new vase and secures it on the window so it'll never fall apart again.  That probably sounded confusing, but it makes sense to me if it doesn't to you. :p

Sarah Dessen amazes me.  She's one of my role models as a writer.  I want to touch my readers and make them think as much as I did when I read this book.  At the same time, my mind hurt after I stopped thinking about the book.  My mind hurts right now, typing this, thinking about this family and what they went through, and this girl and what SHE went through.  Sarah Dessen, you're amazing.  Sarah Dessen, you're my life.  I'll never, ever forget you, Sarah Dessen.  Thank you for providing this amazing, life-changing book that I will think about every day from now on.  


  1. This is my favorite book from Sarah Dessen. :) i'm glad you loved it too.

    1. Me too! :) And thanks for commenting.

  2. Great review, Annie! Surprisingly, this is the only Sarah Dessen book I haven't read. That is because I can never find it at my library :(
    Guess it's too popular...

    Well, maybe one day I'll get lucky and this book will be at the library for my grabs!

    -Grace :)

    1. Oh definitely read it! it was great!


I appreciate and love all comments, support, and feedback on my blog! I will also try my best to respond to each and every one of your comments, so know that I read and appreciate each one!

Thank you so much for commenting (or at least reading my post ;P)!