Annabel’s life has always been in the shadow of her more buoyant and beautiful sisters, being not quite as outgoing and not quite as lovely. But she’s lived a life that many other teenage girls desire. She’s a local model, like her sisters before her. She’s best friends with the most popular girl in school. She goes to all the parties. And even if she pales in comparison to her older sister, she is pretty in her own right.
But that’s before the party.
After that, she’s friendless and invisible, except when she’s being harassed by her ex-best friend.
Her home life falls apart as well, his stunning sister in danger of succumbing to an eating disorder and her mother having a difficult time facing the truth.
Sitting alone at lunch, she can’t help but become more intrigued by the other loner in school: Owen. Especially since he doesn’t seem to care that he’s a loner. In fact, he doesn’t seem to care about anything but music – and his anger management lessons.
Once they strike up a conversation, Annabel’s loneliness begins to subside and she starts to realize a part of herself that she has never known or accepted before – her opinions. Always the peacemaker and the one to go with the flow, she’s never been truly herself with anyone. Until Owen.
But what happened at that party can’t help but follow her – and eventually she’ll have to stop hiding from it.
Every Sarah Dessen book has such exquisite, stunningly poetic language without ever being patronizing. Her novels are honest, raw, and emotional – and Just Listen is no different. Though each of her books feature completely different characters in completely different situations, Sarah manages to always make them hypnotic in their narration, exceptionally sympathetic and inspiring.
Annabel is an extremely credible character; she is in no way over-the-top. Instead, she is realistically quiet, the one that fades into the background, the friend that gets less attention. Her relationships with her mother, her father, and her sisters are poetically drawn and presented – providing us with three-dimensional characters we can latch onto and follow without any prodding.
Just Listen is yet another triumph in storytelling from Sarah Dessen. And shows us why YA is one of the best genres, and the most underrated, in publishing today.