Review: Just Listen, Sarah Dessen

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.

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β€œIt 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

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“I just…I don’t always say what I feel.”
“Why not?”
“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 clichΓ©, 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!!

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β€œThere 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 β€œbad 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.

β€œThere 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.

OVERALL

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:Β  4 drops!

Sarah Dessen, Just Listen, Β Published by Viking Books For Young Readers, April 6th, 2006.

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Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything” β€” 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!

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Book blogger, travel blogger, writer. πŸ“š |🌍 | πŸ’ž Writing & Communications Graduate. French. Living on love, wanderlust and ya books.

65 thoughts on “Review: Just Listen, Sarah Dessen

  1. Lovely review Marie! I’m so glad you liked this, it’s been so long since I’ve read it or any Sarah Dessen book for that matter but I remember reading this and then I went on a real binge of her books. She is a fantastic contemporary writer, have you read Lock and Key? I think that may have been the first one I read (hoping I’ve got the title right there)
    Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you so much, Hannah! I haven’t read Lock and Key, but I will have to add it to my TBR. I feel like Dessen’s books are perfect for me, sweet contemporaries to read on rainy days ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you enjoyed this one! Just Listen is also my second Sarah Dessen book… after The Truth About Forever πŸ˜€ I like the latter better, but I think this one is not dissapointing either. It’s just been so long that I kinda forget what happening in the book πŸ˜€ Thanks for refreshing my memories and great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahahah really?! Well, seems like we are reading the same things πŸ˜€ Are you going to read another Dessen book sometime soon? To know…we might have to read the same one next, πŸ˜€
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment, so glad you liked it! xx

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  3. I’m so happy you read it! Just Listen is one of my favourite books EVER. I first read it when I was maybe 17? And I have read it countless times since. There is so many important reminders on there that continue to feel relevant to me even as an adult. I haven’t re read it in a while and you’re making me think it might be time…

    Apparently writing Just Listen was a real struggle for Sarah Dessen. She had one of those MAYBE I’LL NEVER WRITE A BOOK AGAIN moments during the process. I love that, because out of it came what I still think is her best book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yay, I’m so glad to hear it ❀ ❀ It has to be time for a re-read, has to be a sign that I talked about this book now πŸ˜€
      Oh I did not know that? It doesn't show at all in her book, that's for sure. It was so, so good ❀
      Thank you so much! ❀ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I still haven’t read any of Dessen’s novels yet but I promise I will one day!! This sounds like a wonderful book and with such great characters, I definitely intend to this book! Loved your review!

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  5. This looks so good! I read a Sarah Dessen this summer, Once and For All. While this one looks a little more touchy topic wise whereas the one I read just seemed like more of a cute little romance, nearly everything you said about this book sounds really similar to the one I read: the great side characters, character growth, the sweetest dudes, non-instalove. Thanks for this great review!

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    1. Oh, I hope you enjoyed Once and For All! πŸ™‚ I feel like (and many blogger friends are feeling the same way) all of Sarah Dessen”s books sort of have the same recipe, with the side characters, character growth and so on. I think they are great and a lot of fun, but probably not the kind of books you should read one after the other… might get annoying and repetitive πŸ™‚
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! I hope you’ll read this one too and love it xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I agree – the two books I’ve read, I can say they were both really good ahah πŸ™‚ Did you read a lot of her books? Which one is your favorite? πŸ™‚
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Amielle ❀ ❀

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  6. Ohh, I far prefer contemporaries that don’t focus only on the romance. When it’s there, though, I love slower, more thoughtful relationships like that of Just Listen. I can see why she’s called a contemporary queen – I’m usually not into contemporary at all, but I’ve enjoyed almost every book so far! (The exception being The Truth About Forever… hm. Coincidences. Your thoughts are making me consider it a little more carefully, though.)

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    1. I’m 100% with you on that! I love contemporaries with slow, thoughtful, healthy and growing relationships, they are the best kind of books for sure ❀
      I'm so glad you love her books so far – hope you'll love the rest of them πŸ™‚ Which ones have you read and enjoyed so far? πŸ™‚
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment ❀ ❀

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  7. Oh yay I am so so so glad to see you enjoyed this book Marie. πŸ™‚ ❀ Just Listen is the first book by Sarah Dessen I picked up and probably still my favourite. Just reading your review has made me want to re-read this book again (something I've said before but something I will get around to doing one day.)
    In my mind Sarah Dessen is definitely queen of YA contemporary. I love her characters and she does write amazing secondary and family relationships in her books. The sister relationship between Annabel, Kirsten and Whitney was amazing, but I loved the relationship between Annabel and Owen the most. They were actually one of my first OTPs. πŸ˜€
    Great review Marie, again I'm so glad you enjoyed this book. πŸ™‚ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I really loved this book, I’m so glad you recommended it to me so often and that I finally read it. Now…I should read all of the other books! I meant to ask you – do you have another favorite after that one, from Sarah Dessen? πŸ™‚
      Thank you so much! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh I adore books with sibling relationships as well! I’m an only child so I guess that’s part of the reason hahaha
    I love that there is no instalove involved at all and how cute is that they sit in the same bench at lunch everyday?? Of course romance would have ensued, but it’s the good kind so it’s all right πŸ™‚
    I don’t mind the quiet, unsure main character, so long as they’re not a doormat and get on my nerves. And clichΓ©s don’t bother me much either, if they’re well-written and work in the story. I’m quite flexible xD
    I actually started The Truth About Forever but never got to finish it… I definitely have to, and try other of Dessen’s books.
    Amazing review, Marie! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh YAY for siblings relationship! I have one fabulous sister and I love reading about siblings so much ahah ❀
      RIGHT? It is so, so adorable how it all starts, just by sitting on a bench together. Not even talking, at first. I just love these kind of beginnings, slow, taking their time, it's so much more realistic. ❀

      Oh, did you have trouble reading The Truth About Forever, or it just wasn't a good time? I hope you'll manage to try it again, or maybe try another one of her books. I have a feeling you could enjoy them, Sophie! ❀
      Thank you so, so much for your sweet words!! ❀ ❀

      Like

  9. i had never heard of Sarah Dessen before today. *gasps* WHY?? Well, I live under a rock! ;p ;p

    But your review made me add this book on Goodreads hella fast! I mean, the stories in which characters go through changes, for the better or the worse – either way, those are THE BEST. And with SOOO MANY BOOKS OUT THERE, it is hard, sometimes, to find the right one and this one sounds like A WINNER, ❀

    AMAZING REVIEW, Marie. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahah, well… you live someplace where you’re not too aware of some contemporary authors? πŸ˜› No, seriously, you are not living under a rock, I think that Sarah Dessen was on everyone’s radar a couple years ago, now…the hype died down a little bit, so don’t worry about not knowing her πŸ™‚

      THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY. I can’t wait for you to read that one, hope you’ll love it ❀ ❀
      thank you so much! ❀ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve read most of her books – except for the newly released ones because my TBR list is growing out of control. #bookwormproblems

    I found her writing extremely comforting, like an old friend that you know would back you up when you’re in trouble. My favourite book of hers is Lock&Key. If you haven’t read it yet, try giving it a try!

    If I read romance, I prefer something sweet and cute type of romance more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahahha, oh, the TBR problem, one bookworm problem we probably will never be able to solve πŸ˜›

      I love how you describe her writing. I haven’t read much from her so far, but… I have this same feeling ❀ It's so great. I need to read Lock&Key next, then, thank you so much for your recommendation πŸ˜€ ❀

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  11. I think that is a signature of Dessen’s. Her books will have romance, but it is never really the central plot, and she always includes family and a great cast of characters. I have read all her books, and this is one of my favorites. The way she touched upon sexual assault, eating disorders, depression, anger management, toxic friendships, and family dynamics, without letting the story get too bogged down is an admirable skill, and I feel like she pulls it off well in all her books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really love how she is able to include family, give an important place to side characters and… have so many heavy themes without making it all a big mess. She’s definitely a great writer, being able to pull that off ❀ Do you have a second favorite book by her you would recommend? πŸ˜€

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! ❀ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had 4 solid 5-star reads from her: this one, The Truth About Forever, Along for the Ride, and her newest one, Once and For All. I know I was more of the black sheep with Once, but there is this idea about love and loss that just touched me. The idea that it’s not how long we loved, but how we loved and that we loved. Maybe it was just more meaningful to me because I am older than a lot of the bloggers I follow.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, okay – Once and For All does sound like a touching read ❀ I'll have that one to read, as well as Along for the Ride next, then πŸ˜€ Thank you so much! ❀

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Good review! ☺️ So I own Just Listen and The Truth About Forever I just haven’t read them because I had a bad experience with the first Sarah Dessen book I tried. I read Along for the Ride about two years ago and hated it. The characters just seemed superficial to me andI hated the mom! But…I need to give her another try. Dessen said that Saint Anything is one of the best books she’s ever written. I’m curious to know your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you so much! I’m sorry you had a bad experience with Along for the Ride – I’m hoping it’s just this one and that you’ll end up enjoying her other books a bit more πŸ™‚ I haven’t read Saint Anything, but it is on my TBR. I’m eager to read it then πŸ˜€
      Thank you for your sweet comment! ❀ ❀

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  13. This seems interesting. I haven’t read any of Sarah Dessen’s books. I usually read sweet and cute contemporaries, such as Kasie West’s books, when I begin to lose my appetite in reading. I also love to read contemporaries that tackle important issues and do not solely focus on the romance. For this kind of books, I love to read the ones by Colleen Hoover. ❀️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh, well if you love sweet and cute contemporaries, Sarah Dessen’s books should be right up your alley πŸ˜€ I hope you’ll want to give it a try πŸ™‚
      thank you so much for your comment ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I haven’t added Just Listen to my TBR yet, though I have seen it quite a lot on Instagram. In fact, I haven’t read anything by Sarah Desssen, but I surely want to.

    I like sweet and cute contemporaries but I even don’t mind if they tackle any issues in particular. Romances are always fun, you know, but sometimes it is good to go out of a particular area and read a new thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, if you usually enjoy sweet contemporaries, I think you should love Sarah Dessen’s books. They are really cute reads, with great and developed characters, and if the romance is often adorable -from the two books I have read-, there are other deeper issues tackled sometimes, which is refreshing πŸ™‚
      thank you so much!! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this book, so I am so glad you enjoyed it so much as well! It sounds like such an amazing book. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

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