May 20, 2012

Review: Just Listen

By: Sarah Dessen
Published: April 2006 by Viking
Format: Paperback, 383 pages
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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“Don't think or judge, just listen.”

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.

Rating: 5/5

I haven't read all of Sarah Dessen's novels, and while this is only #4 for me, I have a feeling this will always be one of my favorites of hers. I had some time off, and while it was already getting later in the afternoon, I decided to grab a book and start reading. I grabbed Just Listen, thought, I'll probably read a few chapters and then finish later. Instead, I sat in one spot and read straight through this.

Dessen has one of my favorite writing styles. So simple, yet beautiful and so full of meaning. She captures me within just a few pages and hold me until the very end. I have no idea how she does it, all while creating wonderfully developed characters and a plot that holds such purpose and meaning.

Annabel, while her initial setup seems overdone as "the girl who has everything," but instead of her falling into the cliche trap in which the character is just an ungrateful snot, she became this real person, with feeling buried so deep down. Feelings that she knew about and feelings that she didn't realize she had until she had to confront them. I felt for her; her emotions and thoughts seemed like they could have been my own at times, and her voice seeped off the page, as if she were literally sitting in front of me, telling me her story. Showing me her story, and making me feel as though I was her.

And Owen. Oh, Owen. One of the best general fiction love interests. I don't fall in love with fictional guys now-a-days, especially not guys from contemporary reads. Which is kind of backwards, I'd say, but...ah well...Anyway, back to Owen. He has his own secrets, his own problems, just like everyone else, but he's found his outlet with music. I love what he teaches Annabel, what he taught me. Wonderful characterization with him and Annabel.

What else can I say about this book, other than I felt it was stunning. Music, what a great theme. While overused, in my opinion, Dessen's work stands out. It wasn't something the character(s) were just interested in, or loved. It was therapy, woven throughout the plot instead of just popping up every now and again. In a sense, music was a character in itself.

Overall, this book is one I think everyone should read at least once. Even if you somehow dislike the characterization, or the plot pacing, or the setup, one thing is for sure, in my opinion: You will take something away. You will learn that sometimes all you have to do is just listen. Don't speak, don't judge, don't even think, just listen.

Beautiful read.

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