Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published April 6th, 2006 by Viking Books for Young Readers
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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. 

My thoughts…

I have heard so much about Sarah Dessen, I just never had a chance to read any of her books, until recently when I purchased two at the thrift store. Since then I’ve purchased a couple more while browsing the book section at Walmart. Just Listen is the first book by her that I read and I really enjoyed it. I can now appreciate why Sarah Dessen is well known for her Young Adult Contemporary Romance novels, and I’m hopeful that I will enjoy her other books as well.

Just Listen is the story about Annabel, the youngest of three girls, a model with a nice family and the girl who has everything. Under all the perfection is the real Annabel, the one who suffered from something so devastating at the end of the last school year after party. Annabel not only lost her self-respect, but her best friend as well. Annabel does everything to forget about that night, but it’s not so easy when she begins a new school year and her ex-best friend Sophie makes her life miserable at school. Other students are whispering about her and Sophie and her friends are name calling and taunting her.

For the rest of lunch, I just sat there, making a point of not looking at anyone. When I checked my watch and saw I only had five minutes to go, I figured the worst part was over. I was wrong.
Shhh, Annabel. It’s just me.
A million red Jeeps mush have passed before my eyes in the last few months, and despite myself I’d checked each one for his face, this face. But only now, here, was it actually him. And while I told myself that in broad daylight I could be strong and fearless, I felt as helpless as that night, as if even in the wide open, the bright light of day, I still wasn’t safe.

Annabel is not only trying to forget about that horrible night and school problems, her family life isn’t all what it seems to be. Her mother suffers from depression and has become a different person since her grandmother’s death. Her oldest sister Kirsten, has moved away to New York, leaving a gaping hole in the family when she continually misses coming home to visit. Her other sister Whitney, is suffering from an eating disorder that her parents choose to disregard until it’s almost too late when Annabel finds her unconscious on the bathroom floor.

Annabel meets Owen at school, a student that once punch another student, then calmly walked away. Owen keeps to himself and never seems to be without his iPod. After Annabel gets sick outside of school one day, he offers he some tissue from his backpack, from then on, a friendship begins.

Owen taste in music is very diverse, and he tries to enlighten Annabel on what he considers great music.

“So you must really like music,” I said, looking back at all the stacks of CDs.“Don’t you?” he replied, switching lanes. “Sure,” I said. “I mean, everybody does, right?” “No,” he said flatly. “No?’
He shook his head. “Some people think they like music, but they have no idea what it’s really about. They’re kidding themselves. Then there are people who feel strongly about music, but just aren’t listening to the right stuff. They’re misguided. And then there are people like me.”
“People like you,” I said. “What kind of people are those?”
“The kind that live for music and are constantly seeking it out, anywhere they can. Who can’t imagine a life without it. They’re enlightened.”  “Ah,” I said, like this actually made sense to me. “I mean, when you really think about it,” he continued, “music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.”

Owen is the guy who never lies, no matter what, and Annabel is the girl who lies to protect other's feelings. Owen teaches Annabel that she needs to be honest with everyone, including herself. The honesty begins slowly by giving Owen her opinion on the music he plays and most of the time it is not in agreement with Owen's. Owen burned a stack of CDs for Annabel to listen to, when she reaches the one at the very bottom, the cover is black, except for two words “JUST LISTEN.”

As Annabel and Owen grow closer she gains the confidence to be open and honest with her family about her modeling and what happened to her on that devastating night.

Just Listen is so well written and very emotional, it deals with many difficult issues such as rape, eating disorders, depression and anger management. I quickly became invested in not just Annabel and Owen but her whole family as well.

Moving on to the next Sarah Dessen novel, Happy Reading -J


  1. I haven't read this author but it sounds good.

    1. I really enjoyed it, I hope the next book by her that I read is just as good.

  2. I haven't read anything by Sarah Dessen yet but I have so many of her books on my shelf because of my teenager. I should probably pick one up someday soon based on your review!

    1. I was pleasantly surprised with Sarah Dessen, hopefully you enjoy her books as well.

  3. I had gues that it related to rape before I got to the end of your review when you mentioned it. What a sensitive subject. It sounds so emotional read. Thanks for sharing this review. Awesome! :)

    1. Yes rape and attempted rape, thank goodness it is YA, I did want to read about a descriptive rape scene.