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Just Listen

Review

Just Listen

Annabel Greene used to be the girl who had everything. Just like her two older sisters, Annabel is a gorgeous girl who models for local commercials and print advertisements, and she has the clothes to match. She and her best friend Sophie are invited to all the parties. But then, at a party on the last day of school, Sophie sees (or thinks she sees) Annabel messing around with Sophie's boyfriend. Suddenly, Annabel is the girl who has nothing --- no friends, no reputation. She doesn't even have her sisters to rely on; Kirsten is off in New York City, while Whitney, who suffers from an eating disorder, has grown sullen and shut out her entire family.

After a difficult summer, Annabel starts the new school year alone. During her lonely lunch hours, she becomes acquainted with Owen Armstrong, a loner who listens constantly to his MP3 player. Kicked out of school the previous year for getting into fights, Owen is back from his anger management classes with a new dedication to honesty. Accustomed to holding back her true feelings instead of risking hurting herself or others, Annabel is at first taken aback when Owen points out the ways she uses language to evade or avoid expressing her true feelings. As Owen pushes Annabel outside her comfort zone, she slowly begins to change, to discover her authentic identity, to maybe gain the courage to confront what really happened that awful night at the party.

Sarah Dessen's novels have become extraordinarily popular, not only for her strongly drawn characters but also for the trust she places in her readers. She has faith that they will be smart enough to pick up the sophisticated symbols and themes with which her stories are infused, and the results are novels whose wisdom far exceeds most other fiction for young adults. In JUST LISTEN, the themes include the importance of honesty, the value of facing conflicts rather than avoiding them, and the vast differences between appearances and reality.

Annabel and her family literally live in a glass house; appearances are important to them, from Whitney's self-damaging desire for physical perfection to Annabel's mother's desire to help advance her daughters' modeling careers. With Owen's help, Annabel eventually recognizes that the truth, even when it's ugly, is infinitely more important than the image she presents to the world. Her journey to this difficult realization is not an easy one, but her clear voice and her introspection will make readers eager to take that journey with her.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 6, 2006

Just Listen
by Sarah Dessen

  • Publication Date: February 28, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Speak
  • ISBN-10: 0142410977
  • ISBN-13: 9780142410974