Title: Just Listen
Author: Sarah Dessen
Published: 2006; Pages: 371
Genre: Fiction (YA)
Just Listen is the story of Annabel Greene, who at first glances appears to have everything, but as she starts a new school year this couldn’t be further from the truth. Something has happened over the summer and she has become alienated from her best friend Sophie and it seems everyone else has turned their shoulder on her as well. Annabel seeks refuge at “the wall” during lunches and everything changes for her when she realizes she can find solace in the quiet and greatly misunderstood Owen Armstrong.
Little by little Annabel begins opening up to Owen about the things she keeps locked away–her sister’s eating disorder and how Annabel hates modeling but continues because of her mom–but completely opening up about everything that has happened to her proves to be difficult. Annabel fails to understand how she can be so truthful about everything when there’s so much at stake when people find out what really happened.
This is my first Dessen novel and after hearing such raves about her books I was pleased to find that I wasn’t let down. Her characters are very real, which made identifying with portions of all of them easy. I sometimes had troubles liking the characters, especially Annabel, because they were portrayed so realistically. Another thing that I appreciated about the book was that the conflicts were mostly internal conflicts–we don’t learn what actually happened between Annabel and Sophie until later in the book and so most of the struggles that we hear from Annabel are global struggles–trying to keep up a perfect facade when inside there is so much turmoil.
For me this is what being a teenager was so much about–inner turmoil. And misunderstandings between friends, and failure to fully listen to each side of the story, and assumptions, and trying to please parents who don’t really understand what you’re feeling. As I was reading this book I was trying to figure out why it was classified as YA or what makes any book a YA novel? Is it because the characters are all teenaged? Because while the subject matter revolves around high school and high school students (although not really), the emotions expressed in the book go beyond those felt by just a teenager–they are human emotions that one feels at any age. As I mentioned in my review on Thirteen Reasons Why, its just as an adult you may be better equipped to handle the emotional turmoil due to experience than a teenager.
Bottom line is I liked the book. I didn’t love it–I actually got a little restless because the “mystery” about Annabel wasn’t announced until so late in the book. And this was fine because it didn’t really matter to the plot of the story because it was about so much more than that and the way the book came together at the end worked, but still. :) This book was the perfect vacation read–not heavy but interesting enough to hold my attention.
A few notable quotes:
‘”Exactly!’ he said, nodding. ‘That’s my point. That’s why we can’t forget it. No matter how much time has passed, these things still affect us and the world we live in. If you don’t pay attention to the past, you’ll never understand the future. It’s all linked together.'” (338).
“All I’d ever wanted was to forget. But even when I thought I had, pieces kept emerging, like bits of wood floating up to the surface that only hint at the shipwreck below. A pink shirt, a rhyme with my name, the feeling of hands on my neck. Because this is what happens when you try to run from the past. It doesn’t just catch up: it overtakes, blogging out the future, the landscape, the very sky, until there is no path left except that which leads through it, the only one that can ever get you home” (340).
So out of curiosity–what does make a YA book a YA book??
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