Saturday, October 26, 2013

This Time, Dessen Does It Right

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If you saw her on t.v. modeling the latest fashions from Kopf's Department Store, you'd think 17-year-old Annabel Greene has it all.  She's beautiful, poised and—on-screen at least—beloved by everyone who knows her.  In reality?  Not so much.  Ever since the night her best friend turned on her, Annabel's become an outcast.  She floats through her school days like a ghost, saying little and trying her best to ignore the lies about her that swirl through the hallways.  She can never tell what really happened at the party that ended her friendship with Sophie, so she buries her pain, pretending it doesn't hurt to be shunned.  Home should be Annabel's refuge, but that hasn't been so for awhile now.  With her sister's anorexia and the constant pressure from her mother/agent to take on additional modeling jobs, home feels more like a battlefield than an oasis.  Not that she can bring up any of her concerns; that's not the Greene Family way.  So, Annabel keeps her mouth shut, her head down and her troubles to herself.  

Then, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with Owen Armstrong.  A loner who's never without his iPod, Owen's like his music: "dark and angry and loud" (66).  His no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is personality scares Annabel, but their budding friendship means everything to her.  Even though she doesn't dare trust him with her secrets, she feels most like herself when she's with Owen.  The more time she spends with Owen, the more Annabel wants to unburden herself, not just to him, but to everyone around her.  Does she dare to speak up about the fateful night that changed everything for her?  Will Owen hate her when he realizes how much she's kept from him?  Can Annabel risk alienating the one person  who's on her side?  Or is it better to embrace the Greene Family tradition and keep everything bottled up inside her? 

Few authors of contemporary YA are as well-loved as Sarah Dessen.  After reading the author's latest, The Moon and More, I really couldn't figure out why.  Then, I picked up Just Listen.  Now, I get it.  I've heard Dessen fans say that the author just gets teenagers and that's very evident as she tells Annabel's story.  With pitch-perfect voice, a balanced blend of humor and drama, as well as warm, engaging prose, Just Listen really does get it right.  It's a fast, compelling read with messages that speak to us all.  I'm not a Dessen die-hard yet, but you better believe I'm going to be checking out the rest of her books.  And soon.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of Speechless by Hannah Harrington; Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez, and Touch by Francine Prose)

Grade:  


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language (a few F-bombs, plus milder invectives), sexual innuendo/content and depictions of underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

2 comments:

  1. I've never read this author, but after this review I'm tempted.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I didn't love my first Dessen read, either (The Truth About Forever, which most people rave about) but I liked Along for the Ride. I'll have to check this one out when I'm in the mood for her style of book. :)

    ReplyDelete

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