Just Listen – Sarah Dessen

“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.”

Annabel is the girl who has everything, at least that’s what the local department store was hoping to put across with its back to school commercial. However that was filmed before, before everything went very wrong. One of her sisters became ill, her other sister was miles away and the two weren’t talking, her best friend started a major rumour and she became an outcast. She is all alone at the start of the new year, but suddenly there’s Owen, kind sweet Owen, who isn’t afraid of the truth, believes that music is everything and knows that bottling things up are not good, but can he help Annabel with the problems she is facing. 

***
This was my second Sarah Dessen book, the first, That Summer, wasn’t a great read for me so I erred on the side of caution when it came to the author. This is why it has taken me a year and a half to read Just Listen, and I’m so glad that I’ve finally bitten the bullet and read it! 
I really loved Just Listen, it tackles incredibly difficult topics but does it so well that its a very easy read yet still leaves you with something once you’ve finished. The story starts with Annabel just before she starts a new year at school, but its not looking to be a good one. Her best friend, Sophie, is spreading rumours and no one wants to speak to her, her other friends taking Sophie’s side. On her first day back she sees her old friend, her best friend before Sophie came along, but is blanked by her also. Sitting on a wall all alone is how she spends many lunchtimes, the only company being Owen who at first she doesn’t talk to. With her sister suffering from an eating disorder home live isn’t exactly easy either, her mum is spending so much time looking after Whitney that she has no real time for Annabel unless it’s to do with modelling. Annabel feels the most alone she has ever felt but after a particularly bad experience with Sophie that leaves her throwing up in the school parking lot, Owen is an unlikely knight in shining armour. 
I loved the story and how it developed, you really get to know Annabel’s life and what’s going on in it, with snippets that led to a reveal of events later on in the book. You learn about Annabels past, her friendship with Clarke and her family’s background with modelling and what it has done to both her sisters. the way the story unfolds was brilliant to read. I was hooked right from the beginning and I couldn’t put Just Listen down. The addition of music in the book really helped as I have a love affair with music myself and the conversations Owen and Annabel have were fantastic to me. I loved that the book approached topics such as eating disorders, anger management, mainstream culture and its effects on young people, modelling and friendship. Amongst other things that I cant really cover without spoiling the plot. It was a very strong way of approaching the topics with such clarity though it didn’t feel heavy at the time of reading. 
The characters were amazing and I loved Annabel, even though it seemed like she didn’t have much depth before the events of the book, but that was probably because the events that the book covered changed her completely. Her family were very kind and complete but all of them were going through so many issues that it was hard to keep it all together. I loved that there was such a great background to Owen with his music and though I would have liked more to Sophie; maybe she was just a silly cow, a very jealous one at that. I liked Clarke and the way that the relationship between her and Annabel was rekindled but obviously couldn’t ever be as strong as it once was. Rolly was a brilliant addition to the story to and I loved his relationship with Owen, it was kinda like a bromance, but not an annoying one! 
I really couldn’t fault the book at all, I really loved it and the way it dealt with everything was brilliant. It really restored my faith in Sarah Dessen’s novels and I now look forward to reading more of her stuff soon!
Just Listen was published in July 2007 by Puffin, an imprint of Penguin. My copy was purchased. 

To find out more about Just Listen visit: 
  • I got this book out of the library earlier this year but ended up taking it back unread as I just couldn’t decide if I fancied it. Think I’ll have to head back and grab it again as it sounds really good.

  • I wasn’t that fussed about That Summer and I’m a massive Sarah Dessen fan girl! 🙂

    This was the first of hers I read and it made me fall in love with her. You should read This Lullaby or The Truth About Forever next.

  • I’ve heard of Sarah Dessen’s but never read any of her books before. This looks like the sort of thing I’d enjoy, I’m intrigued! Nice review!

  • I have only read one Sarah Dessen book before, and found it OK but not great, but I am really intrigued by this one! Thanks for posting 🙂

  • Ash

    Just Listen is definitely in my top three favorite Sarah Dessen books. I think you’re right when you say it tackles the harder issues really well. Great review! :]

  • I thought That Summer was only okay, but I loved Last Chance/Keeping the Moon so I’m definitely going to try Just Listen 🙂

  • I LOVE Sarah Dessen and I didn’t even finish That Summer!

    Glad you gave her another chance! I adore Just Listen 🙂 It’s one of my favourites of hers!

  • This is my FAVORITE Sarah Dessen book. Keeping the Moon is really good too. But seriously, this book kicks butt. I love Annabel’s character growth, and of course I adore Owen!