Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
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.
Talk, dark, and music-obsessed, own 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.
4.09 average rating on Goodreads
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Family Drama/Romance
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for ages now, and having just finished all of the (released) books in the super long and intense Mortal Instruments series (which, by the way, I loved! - reviews coming soon!) I figured now was a perfect time for a quick, easy read.
As a long time Sarah Dessen fan, I knew generally what I was getting into here - the seemingly perfect girl has a not so perfect personal life, but then some boy comes along and makes everything alright. I have to say though that I was pleasantly surprised to find that Just Listen focused more on Annabel and her relationship with her family, more so than the relationship between her and Owen.
* A warning to prospective readers: this book does touch on the serious topics of eating disorders and rape, which may be upsetting or triggering for some people. *
Annabel is seventeen and beautiful, what more could one want, right? She's been modelling since before she could walk, following in her sisters' footsteps and giving her mother a way to spend her time, in an attempt to keep her from regressing back into her depression. This is the life that Annabel was once content with - happy, even, back when she had friends.
Since the beginning of the summer though, Annabel is different. She and her "best friend" Sophie are no longer speaking, and she ends up hurling in the bushes everytime she sees Sophie's boyfriend, Will. At home, her sister Whitney sits in her room, silently recovering from her eating disorder. Meanwhile, their parents are doing their best to keep things all together, and to portray the perfect family image to people who glance in the glass dining room windows as they drive by.
You could say Annabel is pretty stressed - she eats alone everyday at school, waiting for the school day to end so she can either get to a modelling job (where she doesn't want to be) or go home and navigate whatever new wave of tension she finds therein.
However, things soon begin to change for Annabel as she and the hopelessly honest, mysterious, music obsessed Owen Armstrong gradually become friends. At first Annabel is nervous to trust the reformed bad boy who claims he never lies. Their relationship has it's ups and downs but Annabel soon learns that Owen may be just what she needs - to help her learn to "don't think, don't judge, just listen" and to help her finally put the past behind her and become the person she's always wanted to be.
I gave this book 3/5 stars. I really enjoyed the plot of the book, but felt that I didn't really connect with Annabel. Also, I felt Owen's character was a little underdeveloped, as was the romance between he and Annabel, which I would've liked to see more of before the book ended. Overall this wasn't my favorite Sarah Dessen book and I finished it a little underwhelmed. That being said, Just Listen was an overall quick and enjoyable read that I would recommend for summer or a beach vacation. Kudos to Sarah Dessen for another enjoyable read <3.
I'd love to hear what you guys thought of this book! Please tell me your opinion of the book/my review, as well as any suggestions of other Sarah Dessen books I should read, or books by similar authors.
Thanks for reading :)