Book: Sarah Dessen. Just Listen. New York, Penguin Group, 2006.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Ages: 9th-12th grade
Read Aloud: yesss : )
Summary: Annabel Green plays the girl who has everything in the Commercial for Kopf’s department store; In reality Annabel’s life is quite the opposite when her best friend turns against her, her sister’s eating disorder has consumed her family life, and she avoids confrontation at all costs. Though she is gorgeous with all the clothes she could want she shuts out her family and has few friends left after Sophie destroys her reputation. Owen Armstrong is the silent type, he is obsessed with music, and makes it a point to always tell the truth. When Sophie and Owen suddenly find themselves drawn to each other, they can’t help but recognize the vast differences yet they have an undeniable attraction to one another. As Annabel sorts through issues in her life she finds that it may not be a terrible thing to let someone in every once in a while.
Finding a voice: High school can be a tough time, especially for girls. When Annabel finds herself in the midst of rumors and chaos after a party her and her former best friend attended she is unable to confront the realities of that night. Owen Armstrong allows Annabel to confront her emotions and be honest with herself as well as others. By the end of the novel she no longer keeps everything in, including the events that took place the night of the party.
looks can be decieving: Annabel’s family is consumed by the way others view them. Annabel as well as her 2 older sisters are beautiful with clothes to match, Annabel is a local model and stars in a few commercials as well. When her sister’s eating disorder becomes apparent it consumes the household and annabel shuts down, ignoring and shutting out the members of her household. Owen Armstrong terrifies Annabel when she first meets him because of his enormous structure and his harsh look. Her fear soon dissipates when she realizes he is more than what meets the eye and he is a caring, music obsessed, softy who takes an interest in helping Annabel come out of her shell.
Connection: This book is like many coming of age stories. Many of them have the idea of more than meets the eye for the characters. Many of Sarah Dessen’s novels feature girls that experience a traumatic events that causes a distinct character change within them. Also the idea of finding love in unexpected places and with people who help them through issues that are effecting the character.
Tesha, a reader on goodreads.com found this book to be typical of Sarah Dessen. She find all of her books to be the same with different characters and different problems, yet virtually the same type of relationships she has with others. She believe Sarah is instilling in others that to overcome obstacles as a teen you must find a boy to help you through the issues.
“Am I the only person who is tired of Sarah Dessen?
I loved the first book of hers I read, Someone Like You, but unfortunately it seems like the more books of hers I read, the more formulaic her writing becomes.
It seems like every novel she writes follows this structure:
1) Girl (with VERY uncommon name) is unhappy about something in her life
2) Girl with very uncommon name meets BOY with very uncommon name
3) Girl and Boy decide to date
4) Big major conflict in story happens that causes girl and boy to doubt each other, and they have a huge fight and then breakup
5) In some versions of the story, the boy and the girl get back together, but in some they don’t. Either way, the relationship that occurred causes the girl to realize something really profound about herself, or her life, or blah blah blah.
Why is this author suggesting to our teenagers that they can’t overcome the obstacles in life without a boy to help them through it? And she’s even a teacher in creative writing! – She’s GOT to realize that by this point everything she writes is starting to sound the same! I might be the ONLY person who’s NOT looking forward to her new book”
Jennifer, Another reader on goodreads.com was captivated by the realness of the characters and the issues that they encountered. She enjoyed how raw the emotions were and enjoyed the book thoroughly.
“Up until now, THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER has always been my favorite Sarah Dessen book. Now that I’ve read JUST LISTEN, however, I think there’s a tie! The characters of this latest release are so honestly real, their dialogue perfectly placed, that you can’t help but be pulled into the life and times of Annabel Greene. “