Actually, this is one of Dessen’s better novels. I’ve read quite a few of her books, and in my opinion, her books tend to suffer from too many storylines. Just Listen is a perfect example of this: the relationship between Owen and Annabel, Whitney’s struggle with an eating disorder, Kirsten’s identity struggle, Sophie’s boyfriend issues, Grace’s depression, and the middle school group. It’s just too much; nothing gets fully explored, and all the storylines are briefly summed up at the end, leaving the reader ultimately unsatisfied. I had wished that she focused on one storyline so she could explore and expand on the relationship and its problems, and add more dialogue so the ending comes to a more satisfying close.
Just to note, the main protagonists from This Lullaby
also had a cameo appearance in Just Listen
. This is actually one thing I do like about Dessen’s books: These cameo appearances add a sort of continuity to the whole oeuvre, allowing you to believe that the story doesn’t really end at the book’s closing lines.
I was glad that the story itself is mainly focused on the protagonist: Remy. Remy is rather cynical about relationships and things in general. She’s not a bad narrator; and at times is rather funny. For instance, when she describes a dish her brother’s girlfriend prepared: “They looked perfect, but it was the kind of dish where you just knew someone had to have been pawing at your food for a long while to get it just right, their fingers all in what now you were having to stick in your mouth.” That’s so true! When I watch some of those cooking shows on TV, the chefs are always plating and arranging and using that dishtowel—which you don’t really know where it’s been—to wipe down the edges of the plate. ;)
And I really liked Dexter. Dessen’s description of him is rather good… so visual: fumbling around at all angles in constant motion with untied shoelaces. Couldn’t help but laugh at his cheesy pickup lines. :) Also quite liked his drunken emotional outburst at the end.
Wasn’t too crazy about Remy’s “fall” at the beginning of the book. Too much like a soap opera… when something bad happens, the only way to solve the pain is by adding more. The only real purpose it served was to bring Remy and Dexter together... "saving the damsel in distress" an all to easy and convenient literary device, in my opinion. And like all of the Dessen books I’ve read, the story’s plagued with continuity problems and typos. However, I’m willing to forgive the errors, as the story on the whole, is not that bad. And given Remy and Dexter’s cameo appearances in Just Listen
, the ending’s all the more satisfying.