Release Date: April 6, 2006
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Age group: YA
Description (from Goodreads):
Annabel Green is "the girl who has everything" — at least that's what she portrays in her modeling shoots. But Annabel's life is far from perfect. Her friendship with Sophie ended bitterly,and her older sister's eating disorder is weighing down the entire family. Isolated and ostracized at school and at home, Annabel retreats into silent acceptance. Then she meets Owen -- intense, music obsessed, and determined to always tell the truth. And with his guidance, Annabel learns to just listen to herself and gains the courage to speak honestly. But will she be able to tell everyone what really happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends?
I have loved Sarah Dessen's books since I read The Truth About Forever back in 2007/08. So, when I get a Sarah Dessen book I have not yet read into my hands, I am doing the happy dance. I found Just Listen from a charity shop for a pound, and now that I am finished the book, I can say safely that the pound was not wasted.
We are introduced to Annabel Green. She is beautiful, intelligent and funny. She used to have it all - place in the popular group, a modeling career, a group of friends. But after her best friend Sophie witnesses something Annabel is not ready to talk about, Sophie starts to spread rumors about her, and their friendship is broken. After a lonely, quiet summer, Annabel goes back to school - now she is a "slut", "a whore" and several other things in the eyes of people who previously doted on her. She also has problems at home - her sister Whitney is suffering from eating disorder and her older sister Kirsten has not been home for while. Her mother is super-protective over Whitney (the sister with the eating disorder) and it seems that the only thing she takes pleasure from is the modeling Annabel does.
Annabel has been modeling since she was a child. She has mostly done commercials and fashion shows at the local mall, but her mother is hoping that she will get larger projects in the future. Both Kirsten and Whitney used to model as well, but now only Annabel is left in the modeling business. But Annabel wants to stop. Since the events at the beginning of the summer, she has not felt comfortable and she just wants to give it up. But because she is worried her mother will not be able to take it, she says nothing.
"Look, film is personal. There's no right or wrong message. It's all what you take from it".
(This was one of my favorite quotes from the book because I completely agree!!!!!)
When Annabel forms a friendship with Owen, things start to change. Owen is nothing like Annabel expected - he is passionate, friendly, and most importantly, frankly honest. He is obsessed with music and sucks Annabel into the world of music as well. Annabel notices a change in herself, but there are some things he cannot talk about, not even to Owen. Or can she?
"There was something in these last words that made my heart just break. I waited for you. Of course he had. And of course he would tell me this, because, unlike me, Owen didn't keep secrets. With him, what you saw was really what you got".
I love Sarah Dessen's characters. They are so realistic, human and faced with real problems. Annabel is seen as the girl who has it all, but once you read more and more about her, you realize that her life is not perfect. I loved differences between the three sisters and the change they all go through during the novel. Owen, of course, is completely dreamy and amazing, but he also has his issues he has to deal with. It was amazing to read about his obsession of music (though I kept hoping he would be obsessed with films rather than music, because I want to read a book with a guy that is obsessed with films!!). Dessen's books focus on everyday problems, problems within families and groups of friends, which is very refreshing after reading a lot of paranormal/dystopian fiction.
"All my life, I realized, I'd only seen my parents one way, as if it was the only way they could be. One weak, one strong. One scared, one bold. I was beginning to understand, though, that there were no such things as absolutes, not in life or in people. Like Owen said, it was day by day, if not moment by moment. All you could do was take on as much weight as you can bear. And if you're lucky, there's someone close enough by to shoulder the rest."
I am completely in love with Dessen's writing. She is extremely descriptive and the way she is able to employ the feelings of the characters is just breathtaking. While I read the book I kept adding little notes to the pages just to mark my favorite parts for future reference.
I am happy to recommend Just Listen to every single person who asks for a recommendation of a good book. It is the perfect summer read - it has romance, but it is not one of those fluffy books you just skim through. It has a deeper meaning, at least it did to me.
Are you a fan of Sarah Dessen? If yes, which one is your favorite novel? Can you recommend me a book with a male character who is obsessed with films?
ps. if you want to find the playlist Sarah Dessen put together for the novel, go here!