Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Published: April 6, 2006 by Puffin
Received: gifted from Farrah at I Eat Words - thank you!!
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. [goodreads]
I enjoy Sarah Dessen's books because even though they may look light & fluffy on the cover, the story within is always deeper and meaningful. She has a gift of writing stories about characters with problems that are identifiable, something that we can all relate to. I think she is one of the best YA authors out there at the moment who can send young teenage girls profound messages in such an easy, calming manner - instead of shoving morals down your throat.
Just Listen is about a girl named Annabel who is the youngest of 3 girls in her family. From the outside, her home looks picture perfect - literally. She is someone who is considered popular at school & appear to have the "perfect" life. Over time these picture perfect qualities begin to break & shatter in to a million little pieces. Annabel's family is now dealing with her sister's anorexia problem. At school Anabel is shut out from the popular crowd, mainly by the ring leader Sophie (her ex-best friend), because of an incident that was misunderstood placing Anabel at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Just when Anabel's world is closing in on her, she meets Owen - the bad-boy-turned-good-again who reaches out a hand and asks her if she needs help. It's through his love of music that he slowly rebuilds Anabel's faith in herself, her friends at school, and even her family. The power of shutting out the negative and "just listening" to the silence around you.
The beauty of Sarah Dessen's writing really shown through in the family's struggles with anorexia. She did not create the story around that, but merely introduced it in appropriate places. The evil that surrounds an eating disorder was present and I felt that Dessen did a good job of showing the ugly side, but also representing the positives on how one can seek help for it. The characters in this story felt very real to me. I could see the wrong choices that Anabel had made and wanted so badly to shout them out to her, but just like every other teenager - I knew she had to figure it out for herself. The relationship between Annabel and Owen was very sweet. I give praise to Dessen for not throwing an instant romance in to the mix, but more so a slow build to a lasting friendship.
If you have not read anything by Sarah Dessen, I suggest starting with this book. It's just the right amount of heart-felt laughter mixed in with genuine honesty. I also enjoyed this book due to it's musicality references :-) And as Sarah Dessen writes... "Don't think or judge, just listen."