Author: Sarah Dessen.
Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything” — at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store.
This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.
Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends. (Goodreads Summary)
Realistic-fic has never been my personal preference, especially not in YA, but I do read it from time to time. And as par for course, Just Listen wasn’t a favorite from the books I’ve read recently, but I did like it. The main arc for Annabel is learning to speak up, to tell the truth but almost as importantly just to say something, anything at all. And I know that’s an important lesson to learn. I know because it’s something I can always stand to hear again, because I have friends who could stand to hear it again, because there are so many unreported crimes and assaults and even more little everyday quarrels and struggles that would be fixed if people could just talk to each other.
I liked the past/present split narrative. By showing us the consequences but not the actions, Sarah Dessen provides an odd backwards suspense, as you wait to find out just what Annabel did to alienate half the school. And for once, I actually liked the LO. He’s not as aggravating a love interest as many; he’s more interested in Annabel’s personality and thoughts than her looks, you can tell that he actually likes her (you’d think that would be a prerequisite for romance, but it seems like YA authors don’t agree), and he has a real personality with quirks and flaws like the rest of the characters.
I wish we’d seen more of her sisters. There’s the barest hint of character arcs for both of them, but not quite enough to connect all the dots. There was the promise of sibling relationships, but not much of a fulfillment. Still, I’ll give Dessen points for trying.
Sexual Content: Mention of girls wearing bikinis at the pool. Some kissing. Character walks in on two teenagers kissing, the boy with “one hand under her (the girl’s) shirt”. / […]”After which, I heard later, she went back to the A-frame and slept with Will.” Teenage boy tries to rape a girl – manages to grope her fairly badly, and pull her jeans down, before they’re interrupted.
Language: 7 d***, 6 hell, 5 scatological terms
Violence: Two boys exchange punches, and one knocks the other out.