Saturday, June 25, 2011

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Title:  Just Listen
Author:  Sarah Dessen
Publisher:  Viking Juvenile
Year:  2006
Reason for reading it:  I needed to choose 2 books that dealt with “issues” in teen fiction.  This one deals with eating disorders and date rape.
My grade:  A+

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.

My Review

To say that I am stunned would be a gross understatement.  This book blew me away.  I have always avoided Sarah Dessen, thinking that she was sort of a fluff romance writer for teens.

I could not have been further away from the truth in any way, shape or form.

This book was both heart wrenching and heartwarming.  I didn’t think that was possible for a book, but this book gets top marks in both of those areas.  It was honest and haunting.  It made me cry, it made me smile and it made me stop and ponder things.  It made me think a lot about what goes on behind the mask of our families.

My heart ached for Annabel.  At the same time, I wanted to sometimes shake her and make her actually stand up and react to something.  She was very real, though.  I think there are a lot of teen girls who get caught up in following a stronger personality, even when they don’t necessarily agree with what that person is doing or asking them to do.  I see it all the time.  I even see it in myself, this attempt to avoid conflict at all costs.

I loved Owen as a character. It was nice to see him teach Annabel how to be a stronger person.  He is flawed with his anger management issues, but he is good for her.  Of course, she’s good for him as well.  She teaches him to reach out to others and together, they both become better people.

I had a hard time putting this book down.  I kept wanting to see Annabel finally step up to the plate and DO something with all the issues in her life.  I was thrilled when she was finally able to do that.  In fact, I was thrilled to see her whole family come to terms with their issues, open up and deal with them.

I loved the way Sarah Dessen started this novel after the “event” that precipitated everything and then builds a story while giving the reader glimpses into the past and what led up to the present situation.  I think she did a fabulous job of balancing out the past and present to keep building to the climax of the book.  It was just enough information to keep me interested and yet, yearning for more information. 

I liked the ending a lot.  It was not a happily ever after and they were all friends again forever and ever.  But it was happy and hopeful and realistic.

I think this book was excellent at showing how a family grappled with an eating disorder and how a young woman struggled with coming to terms with an almost rape.  I should warn readers that even though the would-be rape gets interrupted, there is a description of what happens.  It is not graphic, but it is disturbing.

I have to give this book an A+.  It took on difficult issues and dealt with them in an open and honest way while weaving a fabulous story of love, growth and acceptance.  It has definitely changed my perception of Sarah Dessen and I will be reading more of her stuff in the future.

Oh, and I loved it when Owen punched Will.  Just sayin’……

1 comment:

  1. When I first found out about Sarah Dessen, I was kind of reluctant to start reading her books. I don't know why, I just was. This was the first book I read by her and I have to say it was amazing! The story line was very well organized and it's easy to go along with it, because so much of each character is explained that you find yourself relating to one of them at some point. I did not want to put this book down after I started it! It's just amazing and I absolutely recommend it to anybody who likes a little romance, humor, and plenty of suspense and drama.