Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summer of Sarah Dessen : Just Listen

“Silence is so freaking loud.” 
- Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

Synopsis: 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.
Note: This week Kat is posting a re-post of Just Listen for Summer of Sarah Dessen

So, this is the first Sarah Dessen novel I've read in a few years and I was nervous. I've always raved about her writing and I wondered if her writing was nearly as good as I remember. Would I still enjoy it?  The answer is yes.

Just Listen follows the story of Annabel Greene, a girl who is trying to keep up the facade of a perfect life when in reality her friendships and family relationships are crumbling around her. When she starts to sit next to Owen Armstrong at lunch, that all slowly changes.

Just Listen is a beautifully crafted novel and  I adore it on so many levels. This is a book not only about a girl and her coming-of-age story, but also one about ideas. Powerful and brilliant ideas.

What Dessen does so well is she allows her characters to tell their own stories. They characters know (or at least think they know) themselves so well that the storytelling feels completely organic.

In Just Listen, Anabel plays the role of both antagonist and protagonist. She is the character you want to cheer for, but sometimes she is her own worst enemy.The main male character, Owen Armstrong is easily likeable. It's hard not to be taken in by his easy going yet intense dialogue.  It just leaps off the page. I found his insights and concepts in this book to be so interesting. 

My favorite character was Anabel's sister, Whitney. She was the most vivid character and I felt like she was someone I knew. Her storyline is the one that stuck with me the most.

One of the major themes of this novel is about the difference between what we think we see and what we are actually seeing. It also explores the ideas of why we do this and the impact of that judgment.

One weakness I'd point out is how Dessen  leans on the Manic Pixe Dream Girl Guy plot a lot. Often these girls don't see what is wrong with their lives until a guy comes into their life and shows them. However, I find the guys in Just Listen to be extremely likeable. Dessen doesn't write about insta-love or overly dreamy chiseled cliches. She writes about real people and about relationships. She spends more time describing characters traits than their eye color.

This novel is gripping, relatable with smart and witty dialogue. Dessen has created a character you want to cheer for and situations we have all experienced.


Remy and Truth Squad from This Lullaby make an appearance


  1. I highly enjoyed this book. Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite contemporary authors. I really loved the messages throughout the book and the wonderful characters. Oh, and thanks for mentioning Manic Pixie Dream Girl! I've never heard of that term before! :)

  2. I love reading Just Listen. I read it 5-6 times each year. Also, I even have Owen Quotes posted on my closet door. Now with the new cover available I have an excuse to buy myself another copy.

  3. I loved Owen's quotes. He is my favorite Sarah Dessen guy (sorry, Dexter!)

  4. Wonderful review, Jess! I'm so glad you loved this book. I remember loving Owen so much as well. I used to be a really huge Dessen fan, but lately, I've been finding her books a bit too similar and repetitive. However, I still like them! :)

  5. I recently read my first Sarah Dessen book and I really enjoyed. I'll have to add this one to my wish list.

  6. This is the second Sarah Dessen book that I really, really loved. It was just so well-done and the story was so good!


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