Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Publication: April 6th, 2006
Genre: YA Contemporary
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.
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This was a book I did my first reread on. I read this back in high school and I loved it a lot. During my reread I remembered why I loved it so much. Annabel is a model and seems like she has it all. But, over the summer something happened to her that made her lose a friend and she is holding a lot of secrets inside her. Her “best friends” boyfriend sexually assaulted her but at the moment for her to say something she freezes up and everyone thinks she’s a slut. Her sister is coming back from an eating disorder and her other sister is away at school getting her life together. Her mom is clueless about how much Annabel hates modeling and what is happening to her mentally and so is her dad. But, she is not good with confrontation so she lets the lies and secrets sit in her mind. Then she meets Owen Armstrong and she begins to start learning about how freeing the truth can be. But it’s not all breezy, beautiful cover girl from there on out. It is a lot of inner battles and struggles that she works through but in the end she overcomes.
Annabel is a girl who is very introvert and I wouldn’t say insecure but she doesn’t know how to speak out for herself. I loved her growth by herself and within her family. It is a lot that she works through mentally and relationship wise. Owen is a boy with anger management (not in an abusive way) and he went to therapy to control it. Now he is a man who tells nothing but the truth and a music enthusiast. He is very open and helps Annabel to become more open with herself and those around her. The secondary character like the family and friends. I loved them all a lot beside Sophie (the “best friend”) and Will (the assaulter). Everyone added a lot of depth to the story and helped shape Annabel.
I really enjoyed how the author didn’t write the assault for shock value and didn’t make a joke of it. The seriousness of the topic is handled with care. Also, there are other serious topics like anger management and eating disorders. Again, the author handles all of it with care. The writing overall is easy to read and enjoyable. I read the book quickly and easily. Also, the romance is so cute. It is a bit of a slow burn but a cute one. I love these two so much and how they come together.
And by the time I was called for dinner an hour later, whatever had happened was over, and we were back in default Greene family mode, pretending everything was just fine. And from the outside, I was sure it at least looked that way.
So while it seemed like you were seeing everything, you really weren’t. Just bits and pieces that looked like a whole.
“Plus there’s the fact that music is a total constant. That’s why we have such a strong visceral connection to it, you know? Because a song can take you back instantly to a moment, or a place, or even a person. No matter what else was changed in you or the world, that one song stays the same, just like that moment. Which is pretty amazing, when you actually think about it.”
There was something so heavy about the burden of history, of the past. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to keep looking back.
“You sure have a lot of answers,” I said. “I don’t,” he replied, reaching down to twist one of his rings around his finger. “I’m just doing the best I can, under the circumstances.”
Then he shifted, moving closer to me, and I felt his arms press against mine, his skin warm. And then, finally, Owen kissed me—really kissed me—and I couldn’t hear anything: not the water, the music, or even my own heart, which had to be pounding. Instead, it was just silence, the very best kind, stretching out forever, or only a moment, and then it was over.
I understood now. The voice, the one that had been trying to get my attention all this time, calling out to me, begging me to hear it—it wasn’t Will’s. It was mine.
There comes a time in every life when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn to know the sound of it. Otherwise, you’ll never understand what it’s saying.
“You know,” Owen said, as his fingers found mine, “it sure seems like you have all the answers.”
“Nah,” I told him. “I’m just doing the best I can, under the circumstances.” “How’s that going?” he asked. There was no short answer to this; like so much else, it was a long story. But what really makes any story real is knowing someone will hear it. And understand. “Well, you know,” I said to Owen now. “It’s day by day.”