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. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Quotable

This week's topic for Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish is "Top Ten Inspiring Quotes From Books."  I knew from the outset that I couldn't scrounge up an appropriate amount of inspiring quotes, so I just went with quotes from books that I really like.  There are three types of quotations that occasionally (I wish more often!) make me stop and take notice:  the ones that say something true just right, the ones that make me think, and the ones that describe something ordinary extraordinarily.  Here's a random sampling of ones I've actually managed to record in the course of my reading.  I've attempted to categorize them, but the more I think about, the more they blur the lines. ;-)

The Too True

1. Loneliness is like being the only person left alive in the universe, except that everyone else is still here.  - Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy

2.  "Dunno.  Why do you think she's scared of anything?  She's a grown-up, isn't she?  Grown-ups and monsters aren't scared of things."

 "Oh, monsters are scared," said Lettie.  "That's why they're monsters.  And as for grown-ups..." ... "I'm going to tell you something important.  Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either.  Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing.  Inside, they look just like they always have.  Like they did when they were your age.  The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups.  Not one, in the whole wide world." -  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

3. Memory, which so confounds our waking life with anticipation and regret, may well be our one earthly consolation when time slips out of joint. - The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

Give Me Something to Think About

4. Today I am bothered by the story of King Canute. (...) The story is, of course, that he was so arrogant and despotic a leader that he believed he could control everything - even the tide. We see him on the beach, surrounded by subjects, sceptre in hand, ordering back the heedless waves; a laughing stock, in short. But what if we've got it all wrong? What if, in fact, he was so good and great a king that his people began to elevate him to the status of a god, and began to believe that he was capable of anything? In order to prove to them that he was a mere mortal, he took them down to the beach and ordered back the waves, which of course kept on rolling up the beach. How awful it would be if we had got it so wrong, if we had misunderstood his actions for so long. - After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell

5. There was ugliness to it, too, I didn't miss that, but church was full of ugly things - blood and crucifixion and thorns and swords and ears lopped off - that were part of God's perfect plan. - The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips

6. "Safe" said Mr. Beaver, "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe.  But he's good.  He's the King, I tell you." - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (on Aslan the Lion)

7. That's the thing, tho. Noise is noise. It's crash and clatter and it usually adds up to one big mash of sound and thought and picture and half the time it's impossible to make any sense of it at all. Men's minds are messy places and Noise is like the active, breathing face of that mess. It's what's true and what's believed and what's imagined and what's fantasized and it says one thing and a completely opposite thing at the same time and even tho the truth is definitely in there, how can you tell what's true and what's not when you're getting everything?

The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking. - The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

The Extraordinary Ordinary

8. From that time on, the world was hers for the reading.  She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends.  Books became her friends and there was one for every mood.  There was poetry for quiet companionship.  There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours.  There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography.  On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read a book a day as long as she lived. - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

9. He still loves the sense of possibility that permeates every building and block. He loves the view of the Hudson from Riverside Park, loves watching the ducks paddle in the Central Park pond, loves the almost-too-pungent scent of gingkos on Manhattan Avenue in the summer. He loves watching his dog's tail wag when he pulls Ike toward Strangers' Gate. He loves the sounds of baseball games in Morningside, mah-jongg tiles on 107th Street, playing cards outside the Frederick Douglass Apartments, the subway underfoot, the flutter and clang of the flags atop the Blockhouse -- every bit of it is music. - Ellington Boulevard by Adam Langer

10. Yet on the other hand the snowstorm might mean a respite, a happy wintertime vacation. Schools would shut down, roads would close, no one would go off to their jobs. Families would eat large breakfasts late, then dress for snow and go out in the knowledge that they'd return to warm, snug houses. Smoke would curl from chimneys; at dusk lights would come on. Lopsided snowmen would stand sentinel in yards. There would be enough to eat, no reason for worry. - Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson

What's your favorite quote from a book?