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ReaderMarija's Reviews

...a pot luck of thoughts and reflections

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Just Listen - Sarah Dessen This is the kind of book all the girls in my high school theology classes would’ve fawned over… one of those Hallmark/Lifetime channel flicks about trust, telling the truth, learning to love, et.al. I always hated that sappy emotional Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul genre—which happened to be required reading for one of my classes on morality (I went to an all girls Catholic high school). Really, the only part that I enjoyed in those classes was learning about all the corruption in papal history; it was like watching a soap opera. That tune from the film Plunkett and Maclaine seems appropriate here: “You’re going to hell.” *wink*

Just Listen is actually not as bad as some of the other books in this genre, though it is predictable. I was able to figure out from page one, what was plaguing Annabel. Annabel’s the youngest of three sisters, rather pretty, involved in modeling and is a high school student. The new school year has begun and she fears facing her fellow classmates and fair-weather friends after last year’s debacle at a party. Sure enough, Annabel’s snubbed by the student body and is no longer the self-assured, confident girl from the year before. (To tell the truth, I was ready to abandon the book right here, having had my fill of witnessing the constant teenage girl/boy drama in h.s.) At lunch, she finds a safe spot near a guy named Owen Armstrong, the boy with anger management issues, but tends to keep to himself, always listening to his iPod. Sure enough, Owen saves Annabel from an afternoon scuffle with former best friend Sophie, and the two strike up a friendship by discussing music.

I actually enjoyed these scenes. Owen and Annabel’s discussions were rather fun and took up a lot of space in the text. I was glad Dessen abandoned her earlier focus on the caddy high school drama. Yet, their relationship hits a snag: Owen wants honesty, but Annabel isn’t ready to give it. She’s having a hard time coming to terms with what had happened that fateful night, the memories festering in her subconscious until she’s ready to burst….

There are also several other side stories that are equal fodder for Lifetime channel dramas: discussions of depression (Annabel’s mother), eating disorders (Whitney, Annabel’s older sister), and finding your particular niche (Kirsten, Annabel’s eldest sister).

However, the book does have a cute side story in regards to Owen’s friend Rolly and Clarke, but I feel that Dessen made an error in her plot: Rolly meets Clarke for a moment, then leaves, with Rolly never catching her name, nor knowing where he could meet her again. Rolly eventually finds her again at a club when he’s with Owen, and both see her. However, Owen never tells Rolly that Clarke’s a student at his school and that he had sat next to her during lunch on the first day of school. For a guy who likes honesty in a relationship, why wouldn’t he mention this little fact to his friend? Even if my sequencing of the events is off (it’s never explicitly drawn out in the story), Dessen shouldn’t have included such a detail if it questions the integrity of her main character.

All in all, an OK story if want something light to read at the beach.