Release Date: April 6, 2006
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
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.
Read my original review for Just Listen HERE! (And don't judge because that review was kind of totally bad).
As I said in my original review, I read Just Listen for the first time in the 7th grade. I've read it a few times since but this re-read has to be the most interesting and different experience I've ever had. I think that Sarah Dessen is still one of the best contemporary authors out in the market today and her books are some of the best out there. There's something about the way Dessen handles tough topics, her characterization, and over all story arc makes reading her books an immense pleasure. Re-reading Just Listen solidified why I love Dessen so much.
In Just Listen, there are two main issues Dessen writes about: sexual assault/rape and eating disorders. (Highlight them to see what I'm talking about. I don't want to spoil anyone who hasn't read this book!) In the last few years that I've read this book, I always understood the importance of talking about these two issues. They're such taboos in society today that even if they effect millions and millions of people, no one wants to talk about it. For me, as a female, both of these issues are close to my heart. But for the first time during the re-read that I saw Annabel in such an immensely different light that I had to stop reading a few times because I got some emotional. One of my very good friends had to deal with the first topic mentioned above for most of the school year last year and it was one of the saddest, scariest experiences I went through as just her friend. Just Listen gave me a bit of an understanding as to what people who've gone through this experience really feel. It was a far different experience than what I'm used to but I'm books like Just Listen exist.
As I said, Dessen's characterization is beyond amazing. I think what I love most is how effortless it all seems. You know and understand what Annabel wants and feels jus through reading the pages. Her emotions and thoughts are so potent that it's almost like she's just your friend and you're reading her journal. Annabel's sadness, fear, and confusion surrounding her situation was a different experience (and a very, very sad experience) because I had seen someone go through the same thing. I could understand Annabel so, so much better after certain events that I don't really have words to describe them. Annabel wasn't the strongest girl around and she made mistakes, showcasing her flaws, but in the end, I wanted what was best for her at all times.
Owen has to have his own paragraph because I love him that much. He was funny, sweet, weird and incredibly kind. And most of all? He wasn't judgmental at all. I think that Dessen book boys have ruined real life boys for me y'all. I just love how Owen and Annabel became friends and at first, there was nothing but friendship between them. I loved seeing the two of the connect over music and slowly, realize that their friendship was more than that. Most of all, Owen was so instrumental in helping Annabel open up about her experiences. However, it was his friendship, kindness, and non judgmental personality that helped Annabel realize how strong she really was. Basically, I love this romance and it always makes me so happy.
But as much as I can praise the characterization, I have to give some praise to the writing and story itself. Dessen's writing doesn't suffocate from using big words that don't make sense in the context. In all honestly, Dessen never uses big words or language that doesn't make sense. I think it's the way she contracts her sentences and diction are all just perfect. There's something almost lyrical about the way she writes. Also, Dessen's writing has such an incredibly calming effect. I like reading a lot of Dessen's books at night because they help me fall asleep faster. I also appreciate the way Dessen unfold her stories. Too much information is never given all at once and the story slowly unfolds to give all the facts to the reader. No matter how many times I've read this book, the moment Annabel tells people what happened to her always give me the same reaction as the very first time I read it. That is a very rare fleet I must say.
Overall, there aren't enough words in the English (or Hindi) language that can truly express my love for this book. I've read all of Dessen's works (I still haven't gotten Saint Anything, her 12th book but I've read all of the other 11) and this one (along with The Truth About Forever) are my absolute favorites. Honestly, Sarah Dessen is as well known for a reason. Her books have so much heart, the focus on family and friendships is always amazing (and so central to anything she writes about) and her ability to handle any serious issues makes me feel all the things. If you haven't picked up this novel, I highly suggest you do so.
Just Listen is one of two of my favorite Dessen novels (and I've read up until the most recent release!) so obviously it's going to get my highest honor. Is my review not enough to convince you to read this book? Well, if it's not, all I'm going to say it GET ON IT NOW!
I can't believe I'm about to say this but I think I might actually like the new cover (below) just as much as the original one (above). Or maybe not, because the original cover gives more of a serious message where the new cover just seems more cute and fun.
Gif credit: Cas