30 June 2010

REVIEW: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Author Name: Sarah Dessen
ISBN #: 978-0-670-06105
Publisher Name: Speak/Penguin Group
Date Released : 2006
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 371
Book Format: Print
Annabel Greene 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 taped the commercial back in April, before anything had happened, and promptly forgot about it. A few weeks ago, it had started running, and suddenly, I was everywhere.

On the rows of screens hanging over the ellipticals at the gym. On the monitor they have at the post office that's supposed to distract you from how long you've been waiting in line. And now here, on the TV in my room, as I sat at the edge of my bed, fingers clenched into my palms, trying to make myself get up and leave.

I haven't been a big YA lover! There are some books I've become addicted to, that happen to have younger characters in them. Twilight and Harry Potter come to mind, but as far as a genre, I don't really read YA books. Heck, I didn't read them when I was teen. Recently, I've been reading more YA novels and I've thought some of them were cute and I enjoyed them.

Enter Sarah Dessen. It's hard for me now to think of her as just a YA Author. JUST LISTEN is the second book of hers that I've read. And this is the second book of hers where the writing, the characters have transported me. Sarah Dessen is not only one of the best YA authors that I've read, but one of the best authors I've read period.

Her writing is superb and her character and character development are better than any author that I've read in the last several years. NO ONE CAN WRITE LIKEABLE, RELATABLE, EMOTIONALLY FLAWED HUMAN BEINGS LIKE SARAH DESSEN. Sorry. NO ONE!

Annabel is what most people think is the ideal teenager. Yet from the minute she appears on the page she is not someone who we love to hate, she is someone we sympathize with. She is dreading returning to school because of an incident that happened at the end of the school year when she was at a party with her best friend and her best friend's boyfriend. As a result of what happened and her own nature of holding everything inside of her and not explaining what really happened, she's been ostracized and regulated to sitting on the wall during lunch away from everyone else. On the first day sitting next to her is Owen. All she knows about Owen is that he's an outcast like her and that he calmly knocked out a fellow student when one of the annoying jerk boys started hassling him. The second Annabel described this incident; I was howling with laughter and fell in love with Owen even though he and Annabel hadn't even spoken a word to each other.

I love how their relationship develops and how Annabel slowly comes out of her shell as she and Owen relate to one another. Owen is too hilarious for words. I loved just about anything that came out of his mouth. Basically don't ask him a question that you don't want the answer to. He is refreshingly honest and forces Annabel to not hold back and speak what's on her mind.

Annabel is the youngest of three sisters where she is known as the nice sister who doesn't give her parents any problems. Her mother went into a deep depression several years ago after her own mother passed away. It's something that still sticks strongly in Annabel's mind. To Annabel the only thing that got her mother out of that depression were she and her sister's local modeling career. So Annabel models even though it's not something she wants to do, even though modeling careers have caused a rift between her older sisters and an eating disorder with one. When what happens to Annabel happens she feels that if she tells someone that it will destroy her family who is already dealing with her sister's eating disorder. So she keeps silent.

Annabel hates confrontation and how this affects her life is layered in so beautifully that you don't feel like you're being hit over the head with a two by four. But it's enough for you to understand why she's not acting in the manner that you think she should. In fact, I didn't even think why she didn't do what I thought she should do until I began writing this post because I was so involved in the writing and the author made me understand Annabel so well.

I could totally sympathize with Annabel. Because as a teen, I hated confrontation (umm, stop laughing) and if I thought someone was mad at me, I would distance myself from that person. Like Annabel, I too lost friendships because of it. So I could totally understand what compelled her to act like the way she did. I only wish I had an Owen back in high school! LOL.

The half-life she's been existing in shatters when what happened to her happens to someone else. Only this time, the person talks and Annabel feels so weak for not having the courage that the other person did. When she can't explain to Owen what's going on, she walks away from her relationship. Now she has no one to talk to. All she has are the CD's that Owen had burned for her. They become her only confront until she gets to this one CD he gave her that gives her the strength to speak out and get others to just listen to what she has to say!

Sorry, I don't know how else to gush about this book. My review is inadequate to talk about what an awesome and powerful story JUST LISTEN is. Seriously, if you don't like YA novels, read this book. It will change and transform you.

Borrowed from my local library!


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3 people posted their 2 cents:

SarahT said...

Yay! I loved this book. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Sarah said...

With reviews like these, it's like your pressuring me even more to read Dessen!!

Lynette said...

I'm going to just keep harrassing you until you give in and read her stuff!

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