Just Listen has been heavily recommended by fellow blogger friends for so many months, years now, I can’t even remember the first time I heard about it. Before heading into this review, I can’t help myself and have to give a little shout out to both Summer and Beth for the recommendation..
A CHARACTER-DRIVEN NOVEL – AND NOT JUST ABOUT ROMANCE.
“It is kind of hard to hold a lot in. But for me… it’s sometimes even harder to let it out.”
Just Listen is my second Sarah Dessen novel, about one year after The Truth About Forever. If I don’t remember correctly what happened in the first book, I think that Sarah Dessen has often been nicknamed one of the contemporary queens and after two books, I really get why. In contemporaries, more than often, you get to see characters shining more than plot ; and Sarah Dessen really is a master at shaping and making characters feel real. Before heading into the characters’ part of this review, I have to say. If you’re expecting a cute, sweet contemporary, you will probably get it while reading this one. Yet, Just Listen isn’t just about romance. It’s also about family, sisters, finding out what you want to do and who you really are. There are also potential trigger warnings in this book that quite packs a punch at some moments – things I did not expect when I first picked up this book. Sexual assault, eating disorders, depressions are the most important triggers and part of the story – something people should know before heading into this story.
CHARACTER-GROWTH: THE SHINING PART OF THE BOOK
“I just…I don’t always say what I feel.”
“Because the truth sometimes hurts,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said. “So do lies, though.”
The main character of this story, Annabel, is one of these characters made-to-be very relatable. If it might seem a bit cliché, it still works. She’s quiet, not that popular, quite unsure of herself and so on. If she’s quite the average character in contemporary books, nothing making her stand out, what makes the book such a winner for me is the development she goes through as the story goes on – learning to assume herself, to speak up, to go for what she really wants, to say the truth. Following her journey was, if a bit frustrating at times, really fulfilling by the end of the book – ultimately giving us the message that following our heart and letting it scream out loud what we really want is, indeed, what we all should do.
CUTE LOVE INTEREST + AMAZING FAMILY VIBES!!
“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.”
Obviously, there’s a boy in this story, the love interest. There is no insta-love here, just a slow, growing relationship between two strangers sitting together on a bench everyday at lunch time, growing into a conversation, into shared music, fights on that very music and so on. Owen, the love interest in this story, felt to me quite different from the usual, popular gorgeous jock or bad boy of the high school If he had a little bit of bad boy blood, anger management issues and so on, he wasn’t labeled as “bad news” or anything like that. He was just trying to overcome his own issues; following his passion of hosting a radio show early mornings; telling the truth. He wasn’t described as gorgeous or bad looking, he just was a boy with his own history. Slowly, they fell in love. RELATABLE AND ACCURATE HERE. He was one of the sweetest love interest I’d ever encountered and I really loved him.
“There has to be a middle. Without it, nothing can ever truly be whole. Because it is not just the space between, but also what holds everything together.”
Something about Sarah Dessen’s books – well, from what I can remember – is that the family and secondary characters shine just as well and as much as the rest of the lot. We have a whole family here, two parents, together and alive, caring for their children and with each their own back stories and little quirks; making the whole family and story even more alive on the page. We also get to know Annabel’s sisters, Kirsten and Whitney, both with their own difficult stories to overcome. Here, the siblings relationships aren’t sugarcoated but they’re here, they’re sometimes hard, sometimes surprisingly easy, they are growing with time as sisters manage to get down some of the walls between them. I really loved that attention to sisters bonds in this story as well. You know me, SIBLINGS.
I think I could talk some more about this book – mention how it deals with toxic friendships just as well, show how it deals with interesting views on what you want to do versus your family’s expectations and so on. I feel like I’ve talked enough as well. Just Listen was, in a nutshell, a really good young adult contemporary – one you might mistake for a sweet love story, if you’re just reading the synopsis. Yet there is so much more to it than that, and that’s how I really like my contemporaries.
Final rating: 4 drops!
Sarah Dessen, Just Listen, Published by Viking Books For Young Readers, April 6th, 2006.
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.
Do you want to read Just Listen? Did you read any book by Sarah Desssen and did you enjoy them?
Do you love your contemporaries sweet and cute or do you prefer when they tackle other issues and don’t solely focus on ROMANCE?! Let me know in comments!