Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review: Just Listen

Title: Just Listen
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Speak (a division of Penguin Group USA), 2006
First read: March 10th, 2010
Page total: 371 pages
Genre(s): Young Adult; Realistic Fiction

Synopsis: "The girl who has everything" That's the role Annabel Greene had played in the commercial. But that was before the big fallout with her best friend, Sophie. Now Annabel has no friends, wants to quit modeling and is afraid to tell the truth - what really happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.
But then she meets Owen Amstrong, a fellow student who's determined to tell only the truth. It is him who changes the way Annabel views the world. But can he help her emerging from her safely guarded shell?

A bittersweet story. It's amazing to see how I grow slowly yet steadily fond of the characters. When I first read the book -which was 11 months ago as you can see- Annabel honestly freaked me out. I couldn't understand why she wouldn't just stick to the truth. Why she would prefer slumming in her cocoon. After going back to the story and savoring each and every word, I can finally say I can understand what she must feeling. I took the time to get close to her, and didn't let the prejudice standing in our way. It's probably weird to bond with a fictional character this way but Sarah Dessen's characters don't feel fictional. They feel real because they're not perfect. They make mistakes. They try to make it good. They're unsure of themselves.
I don't seek confrontations like Kirsten, the oldest of the Greene sisters, but unlike Annabel, I don't shy away from them either. Also, I'm not used to the silent treatments the way Whitney, the middle girl, is used to. If you ask me, I'd say while I don't like confrontations, I do what I have to do - I deal with them in order to protect myself. For Annabel, it was holding back the truth, hoping everyone -including herself- would forget the incident soon.
Several important topics are touched in this novel, such as Whitney's anorexia, Annabel's speaking up for herself, Owen's anger management. Each character struggles to live with her/his problem and while Annabel's clearly the major character, the others don't feel like left out, either - they're just as real as Annabel is.
At the end, Annabel learns to stand up for herself, and that while running away may be the easiest way out, it is not always the right way to deal with problems. And for that, I truly admire her.

Also, this book is packed with wisdom we all know subconsciously but that has never been pointed out to us. So, some quotes:
"But being nice wasn't as easy as it seemed, especially when the rest of the world could be so mean."

"I was beginning to see, though, that the unkown wasn't always the greatest thing to fear. The people who know you best can be riskier, because the words they say and the things they think have the potential to be not only scary but true, as well."

"What's wrong with nice?"
"Nothing. Except it usually involves not telling the truth."
-Annabel and Owen

"Anger's not bad. It's human. Anyway, just because someone's upset doesn't mean they'll stay that way."

"Don't think, or judge. Just listen. [...] And then [...] you can make up your mind. Fair enough, right?"

This is a great book.
Sarah Dessen is an amazing author.


Liddy said...

I realy need to pick up some of dessens' books! They all get such great reviews and his one sounds really, really good!
If you have time, perhaps would you pay a vidit to my blog?

Jen the bibliophile said...

I've never read anything by Sarah Dessen, sadly enough. I've always wanted to, but I just never seem to be able to make it there. I don't know why, it always seems to me, that her books get such, all around, good reviews. Great job Gin!

In the Closet With a Bibliophile

Ginny said...

@Liddy: I love your blog! I especially loved your bookshelf-tour :D

@Jen: You're in serious need of Sarah Dessen, Jen!!

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