371 Pages, Paperback
Published on February 28, 2008
Summary: 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.
Why, you ask, am I reviewing a book first published in 2006? Well, mostly because last night I was going through my reviews and realized I had yet to review one Sarah Dessen book. And I couldn't sleep very well knowing that one of my favorite authors was conspicuously absent from my blog. So, I woke up at five am this morning and re-read a few chapters of one of my favorite novels, and possibly the first YA novel I ever read, and realized it was practically a crime that hardly any of the blogs I follow had a review up. So, voila, a review from my frizzy-haired junior high nightmare-ridden self.
Annabel was popular before Sophie, her bitchy best friend dumped her because of an incident we don't learn about until later on. Sophie has moved on and is still popular while Annabel is friendless and lonely. Enter Owen Armstrong; the boy everyone's afraid of, and the boy who always has headphones in his ears. When bad turns to worse, Owen helps Annabel out in a surprising way, she finds herself drawn to the quiet, elusive Owen and even spending lunch with him. Annabel is a relatable, personal character who I immediately clicked with when I started reading this book. She was trapped by her own fears and keeping quiet just to keep from seeming like anything touches her. Own was a mystery and attractive in that I-don't-really-know-what-I'm-getting-into way. His obsession with music was what made him such a great character; since I, myself, have a love for music, it was easy to see why that would be his escape. Annabel has her silence and Owen has his music to fill it. The side characters weren't really focused on, but the main character's chemistry was perfect and sweet.
The story was deep and meaningful and probably the reason why I found this novel so captivating. Annabel was secretive and scared of things readers don't really understand until the end. Well, at least I didn't understand them until her whole confession to Owen. Dessen did a wonderful job of building tension and attraction between Owen and Annabel and made the romance feel more important than just your typical high school relationship. The reactions from everyone surrounding them were realistic and it was almost heartbreaking how Annabel's silence hurt another girl. I loved the pacing, because it wasn't too fast and speeding past things that were important, nor was it too slow and lagging at places where it shouldn't have. The idea of their glass house was amazing and I loved the symbolism of it. And lastly I loved how much music was incorporated in the story. Even the title to the book had many meanings because of it.
Lastly, and forgive me for sounding like my middle school self again, but Dessen's writing is great. She really knows how to deal with big issues in ways that teens understand. I've read nearly all of her novels, and Just Listen is one of my favorites because of the perfect, heart-wrenching way that Dessen describes Annabel's raging emotions. Her writing style is simple and beautiful in that fact. I don't know if it's true for all teens, but I certainly love it when an author doesn't shy away from the gritty details and the mere fact that Dessen deals with trauma is such a graceful way was great.
Overview: In general, Just Listen is a novel about how one teen's silence can be filled with another'w music. It's a romance and a story of learning to speak up for oneself. Though Annabel has reasons some readers might not understand, by the end Dessen plainly shows how Annabel's mind works without making her seem weak or hiding any of her real self. Owen was another outcast who was just the push Annabel needed to confess everything that had happened to her. While the other characters weren't focused on much, I didn't mind because they were developed enough so that we saw who they were and didn't take the spotlight away from Annabel and Owen's tender romance or Annabel's struggle to speak up. Even though the story deals with a heavy topic, Dessen finds a way of making it feel real and tragic and hopeful all at the same time. Her writing felt honest and depicted Annabel's thoughts in a well-thought out way that keeps readers reading and makes them care about her a lot. Overall I loved this book because of its grace and simplicity and the way Dessen draws a world around you that feels natural and complete.
Recommendation: All teen readers or readers who like YA
Cover Rating: 4 stars
Character Rating: 5 stars
Plot Rating: 5 stars
Writing Style Rating: 5 stars
Overall Rating: 5 stars