Thursday, April 16, 2015

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Hola, blog readers!  I have, once again, drifted into absentee bloggerism.  I do this sometimes. 
Sometimes I just get tired or busy or tired and busy or tired of being at the computer in my spare time when I'm at it all the time for work.  Sometimes I become a good reader and read books with reckless abandon to the exclusion of the blogging.  I'd like to think this has been one of those times.  Also, I've been, you know, tired....and busy.

The laws of random reading for the decision-impaired nearly landed me in a reading funk about a month ago.  The randomizer picked and I dutifully began and discarded a couple of books, which is good in the grand scheme of "I have ever so many books and must get rid of some, but also I read at a glacial pace" things, but not so great because after a few in a row, you're like, "Uh oh, do I just not like books right now?  Any books?"  Happily, just as I was reaching my saturation point with not liking books, the randomizer awarded me Just Listen by Sarah Dessen.  I won't say I'm a crazed Sarah Dessen fangirl - honestly I found Dreamland to be kind of a disappointment as far as YA issue novels go, but I had a fantastic experience with The Truth About Forever, so I was happy when Just Listen's number came up.

When I got to my own face, I found myself starting at it, so bright, with dark all around it, like it was someone I didn't recognize.  Like a word on a page that you've printed and read a million times, that suddenly looks strange or wrong, foreign, and you feel scared for a second, like you've lost something, even if you're not sure what it is.

Annabel Greene is the girl who has everything, or at least she plays one on TV.  When the commercial she features in starts popping up on TV screens, Annabel feels like she couldn't be less like the smiling girl in the pictures who is having the perfect high school experience.  Instead, something happened during the summer that she can't talk about, that is the talk of the school, that has sent all her best friends packing to avoid becoming a social pariah like Annabel.  Things are no better at home where her mother is struggling with depression, her middle sister is recovering from anorexia, and Annabel has no choice but to maintain the facade to keep her precarious family's boat from rocking.

Instead of letting the truth out, Annabel is limping through her senior year friendless and sick with worry.  That is, of course, until she meets the guy.  Owen Armstrong's not exactly a social butterfly either.  He's got kind of a frightening reputation for anger and a habit of always using his headphones to block out the world, but it turns out broody, honest to a fault Owen is the only one who can rescue Annabel from her own act and help her tell the truth, even to herself.

There is definitely something special about a Sarah Dessen book.  It's not that I relate terribly much to her trying-to-be-perfect teenage main characters or expect that an unexpected guy will always come to the rescue when life goes south.  However, Dessen does a great job of turning a "perfect" untouchable girl into a normal person with normal problems whose life isn't as great as it seems.  Annabel's life, in ways, is perfectly typical, filled with sisters who are rivals; loving, if distracted, parents; and a childhood friend or two who got dropped along the way.  It's that true-to-life high school experience that really helps Dessen's characters jump off the page and become truly lovable.

The romance that brings an unlikely couple together is satisfying, but more importantly serves as a way to draw out Annabel's character and her coming of age story.  Admittedly, Dessen books have a bit of a formula to them, but I think it's a great formula, and when Annabel finally comes to terms with her secrets, I was crying right along with her. Just Listen is a touching, satisfying romance with a musical bent and a main character who is learning just how much the truth can set her free.

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. 


  1. I've never read Dessen. I'm glad this one worked for you.

  2. I haven't read this author, but have been looking at her books recently, wondering if I would like them since so many others do. I am glad you liked this one!

  3. I agree -- I don't LOVE Dessen, but I do like her books, especially when I'm in the mood for something quick and light. Glad the randomizer found you a hit!

  4. Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me during readathon!

  5. I don't think I've ever read Sarah Dessen, but I have a few of her books in my TBR. I'd like to sample her work at some point.