YA Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin Group, LLC
Format: Kindle, 2008
Reviewed by: Ellen
Final Grade: 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 out of 10
Choosing your favorite Sarah Dessen book is more challenging than choosing your favorite cocktail – they’re all so awesome (plus cocktails are also easier cause many contain whiskey…not a fan). While Judith has already shared her favorite, I felt it’s time to introduce you all to MY favorite, a book I love so much that I almost purchased it when I found a copy in South Africa just because it was there, which contains one of my Top 3 YA Hotties Of All Time!
Plot: Annabel is not having a great start to her school year. Her former BFF Sophie has gone all Mean Girls on Annabel, believing she tried to hook up with Sophie’s boyfriend at a party over the summer. The truth is that Sophie’s asshat boyfriend assaulted Annabel and tried to rape her. After being ostracized by her former friends, Annabel is forced to spend lunch sitting outside near the unpopular kids, including hottie hot hot Owen Armstrong with his permanent headphones and anger management issues. Thanks to his anger management sessions, Owen has learned that telling lies is destructive and leads to problems. Except Annabel’s entire life revolves around hiding the truth for fear of how it could impact those around her. Would anyone believe her about the attempted assault? Why don’t her parents understand how serious her sister’s eating disorder is? Do people really want to know her true opinions on things?
Review: I cannot say enough amazing things about this book, it’s one of my favorite of any genre. Annabel is your typical teenager; at the same time both weak (through her inability to tell others about what is going on around her) and incredibly strong (by figuring out how to deal with those problems and live her life). I love love love her growing relationship with Owen (SQUEE!!), reclaiming her friendship with Clarke, all bacon all the time restaurant trips, befriending Owen’s fairly crazy younger sister (how do I get a book about Mallory and Angel teaming up to rule the world??), and all the weird music talk.
If I have to give one criticism to this book it’s one I have for all Sarah Dessen books: Annabel’s family drove me completely insane. How did her parents not see what was going on with her sister’s anorexia? Why do they pay so little attention to Annabel? What is with her mother’s modeling obsession? If I ever become a parent I swear I will re-read all SD’s books as a reminder of how NOT to parent my child.
My favorite parts of the book were, not surprising, the segments about Annabel and Owen. Sigh, Owen. He’s tall and a bit of a bad boy but he listens to weird chirping noises and things it’s legit music! My Britney Spears-loving self is flabbergasted by this but believe me, for him I’d give it a shot. Especially if a car wash and some kissing was included. A girl can dream.
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the heroine: 10. Do I have my issues with Annabel? Of course, she’s not perfect. Which is what makes her a perfect heroine. She faces many real-life issues throughout the book and yet she never stops being completely likeable and easy to relate to. I do wish she’d speak up for herself more and stop using “placeholders” earlier on, but the important thing is that she grows and is eventually able to do so. Every time I read the book (and I’ve done so a bunch) I just want to give Annabel a hug and yell at everyone around her to stop being so selfish. Um, and then steal away Owen, obviously.
How much did I like the love interest: 10000000. I’ve read probably 1,000 YA books in my life and Owen is one of my top 3 YA hotties ever. That should say it all. He’s so patient with Annabel, he’s hot, he’s got that nerdy music thing going on while still being a bad boy with anger issues. Owen seriously does it for me. Oh, and the scene in the car wash – swoon city. I put “listen to weird music and kiss in a car wash” on my bucket list for a reason!
How believable is the plot: 10. Please, this is a Sarah Dessen book! Everything is completely believable, even when you don’t want it to be. I have yet to read a single sentence in any SD book that seems out of character or unbelievable. She is, in my opinion, the best YA novelist around.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. See above.
How much did I want to keep reading: 10. Even during my multiple re-reads I have to be literally torn away from the book while reading. I’ve left the house with dirty hair way too often because 20 minutes of reading is far more important than actually grooming myself.
Final Score: 10+/10. Do yourself a favor and read this book. You won’t be sorry. But don’t get any ideas, Owen is mine.