Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Published: April 6th 2006 by Viking Books for Young Readers
4 out of 5 stars
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.
Don’t think or judge, just listen
This was the book I read last week during Banned Books Week 2017. I wasn’t aware that it was even on the frequently challenged list until I actually looked up the list in order to pick a book from it. I was amazed at how many challenged books were on there that I read in my high school English classes. This review might have some spoilers so please read with caution if you haven’t read this book yet!
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
This book begins at the start of a new school year, Annabel was one of the popular girls last year and this year she is an outcast. We learn pretty early on that an incident happened at a party that caused Annabel to basically fall from grace and her shutting everyone out didn’t help her situation. Throughout the book we get flashback chapters of the night in question, how Annabel became friends with Sophie, and how she lost Clarke as a friend. With these flashbacks it did seem that the plot kind of dragged a little bit, but at the end it was worth it.
Not only do we slowly learn about what happened to Annabel, the book focuses on her sister Whitney and her eating disorder. Because of what is going on with her sister, Annabel feels that if she tells her mom anything (like what happened to her or that she wants to quit modeling) that it will destroy her. So what does Annabel do? She just stays quiet and keeps everything in.
Silence is so freaking loud
Annabel as the MC was alright in my opinion. She didn’t really have that baby of the family attitude that I am used to seeing in my family or in books in general. But understanding what happened to her, her current personality makes sense. She does remind me of a bunch of other Dessen’s main characters, but Annabels story itself is unique to the Lakeview world (community?).
Just like Annabel is a typical MC for Dessen, Owen our “bad boy” is kind of just the same. It seems as if there are two different types of guys that the main character falls for. We have the silent, sometimes moody bad boy vibe, or the quirky, all over the place but still kind of cute somehow guy. Owen is the first type, and honestly he isn’t very rememberable amongst all the other bad boy types. His “quirk”, I guess you could say, was that he is obsessed with music. Every conversation that he has with anyone has to deal with music. It’s like he eat, breathes, and sleeps music.
I wondered which was harder, in the end. The act of telling, or who you told it to. Or maybe if, when you finally got it out, the story was really all that mattered
In typical Dessen fashion, her novels focus on a theme of friendship and then somehow a guy fits in to make the main character see that there is more than one way to view things. In Just Listen, I felt that Dessen went a little deeper and focused also on some harder themes, such as eating disorders and rape. This whole book (for Annabel) was to figure out how to live with oneself after such a traumatic experience and get the help that she needed. In her case it was finally listening to herself, finally telling her family, and then talking to the lawyer to help make sure this didn’t happen again. I’m glad that Annabel finally stood up to her attacker (it did take basically the whole book though) and she was able to move on and even mend friendships along the way.
I understood now. This voice, the one that had been trying to get my attention all this time, calling out to me, begging me to hear it — it wan’t Will’s. It was mine
Overall, this wasn’t may favorite Sarah Dessen novel but it is in the top 5! Even though it was slow in the beginning, it did pick up around the middle. I liked that Dessen focused more on stronger themes in this book than she has previously, and I hope that in future books that she continues to do so.