Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Just Listen - Sarah Dessen
Genre: YA Contemp Fiction
# of pages: 371 (pb)
Publisher: Viking, Penguin
I'm glad I read The Truth About Forever first! While I enjoyed that book immensely, it provided a smoother transition from lighter read to a heavier and more thematic. Again, although I liked TTAF a lot, Just Listen kept my attention and focus better, and I think it's because it was such a heavier book. I really could not put it down, and I read upwards of 150 pages at a time - which, on a school night, is pretty good for me!
This is just my 2nd Dessen book, but I'm already noticing patterns. THESE ARE LOVABLE, PERFECTLY FINE PATTERNS! Patterns are not bad! I actually liked comparing the characters from here with the ones in the other book and seeing how similar they were to each other. Why change your formula if you've got a good one? I actually think the consistency and familiarity is what makes Dessen so popular.
The only teeny weeny issue with using the same formula/patterns is that they get a little predictable. And so there were parts of this book that I saw coming from a mile away.
Also, you can expect characters to act a certain way, and so when they do, it's not always spontaneous or as "emotional" as the scene may need.
One of Sarah's many strengths is in her use of narrative voice. I liked Macy's voice in TTAF, and I like Annabel's voice too. Annabel seemed very realistic and her issues (an abject fear of confrontation and an inability to voice her thoughts and feelings) were understandable and genuine.
**However**, it was about page 350/371 before she actually started changing.
It got aggravating that the main character didn't really start undergoing a change until the book was almost over. It made Just Listen seem somewhat repetitive, because the same issues would happen over and over and no resolution would occur...until the very end. Also, the "moral universe" that these characters live in is incredibly amusing and kind of laughable. For example, 'good' teens can go to parties, drink alcohol, hook up, and do god knows what, *as long as they are home before CURFEW!* Oh, Lord kids, please don't break curfew! We can't have that!
Also, does anybody else (who's read the book) think that Sophie is just the biggest, stupidest b--- in YA fiction? It's funny what constitutes a 'slut' in her world, because apparently, 'hooking up' is perfectly acceptable in all situations except with someone else's boyfriend. Oh, glad we got that cleared up! (Sarcasm--I really have to stop doing that) But that's just something I noticed - it has nothing to do with the rating. That being said, there's one other thing about Just Listen that just seemed "off," and that's the subject matter. For a book that deals heavily with sexual assault, I thought this story was a very mediocre execution. It's one thing to go into denial, but Annabel just really didn't act like a victim...she was too detached, and I agree with the reviewers who argued that what you hear happened to Annabel isn't exactly what happened to her. I don't know, it just seemed like an extremely sensitive and mature topic that was handled a little too casually. Speak did a much better job, in my opinion. So I took off a point for that.
BUT... rape/sexual assault issue aside, I really liked the idea of learning to grow in confidence and finding one's voice. I liked Annabel's character transition, even if it was a little too slow, and I can't conclude this review without mentioning how much I love Owen! His taste in music is borderline ridiculous, and he kinda threw hissy fits when Annabel didn't echo his musical sentiments, but I absolutely loved his devotion and loyalty to her. What an excellent character! And I thought the way he interacted with his hyperactive little sister, Mallory, was so sweet! That was a nice touch that the author added :) Annabel's sisters, Kirsten and Whitney, were interesting, but I didn't really care about them as much as other reviewers. They were just kind of 'meh' for me. Overall, Just Listen was an excellent, quick read that I would definitely recommend to others!

Final Grade:Same grade as The Truth About Forever...check this one out if you haven't already!

9 shout-outs!:

Anonymous said...

Awesome review! I love Sarah Dessen, but I haven't read this one yet. Glad you enjoyed it!

Missie, The Unread Reader said...

Hey Amelia,

First, please don't stop with the sarcasm. I love it. JS.

Although I have seen this author's name every where, I have yet to read one of her books. I'm definitely gonna have to give her a try soon. I like patterns, too. Also, big fan of heavy!

Glad you enjoyed!

Rose I. Cunningham said...

That's a really in-depth review. I've read the book and have enjoyed all of Dessen's books, and I agree with your points. Some of the matters are taken a little too casually, yet it is fiction, and some things aren't totally realistic. (And Sophie- I totally agree!!! Why would she even be her friend in the first place?) But great review! Have you read Keeping the Moon? That is my favourite! =)

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this one for the most part, Amelia! I really loved this book, too...excellent review :)

Adriana said...

Haha! You're so funny. I actually knew kids like that who were all goody goody but did so much worse on the weekends.. The premise of this book sounds interesting, but I'm so hesitant to read another one of her books since I didn't click at all with the first one I read. So if you read Dreamland, then I would love to know how it compares to the ones you've read.

P.S. Your blog ROCKS! It's one of my favorites! :D

Danielle said...

This was my first Sarah Dessen novel and I fell in love with it, but I think your right it probably owuld have been better to read the lighter one first.

Great review! If your liking Sarah Dessen and want to read another one try This Lullaby. It's one of favorites by her. (Just liusten and Truth about Forever are the others)

Blueicegal ♥ said...

This was my first ever Sarah dessen book! i don't know if i would find it the same now but i loved it at the time, great detailed review dearie! xD

Savannah said...

Nice review:) Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. I love how real her books always seem.

Cindy said...

I also agree about Annabel being a bit annoying, without her doing much until the end. This book could have been better and I am glad it wasn't my first Dessen novel also or I would've been disappointed, and probably never tried reading her again.

I believe I have only read one other book of hers, and while not on my favorites list, I am still willing to read more by her. Hope the next one we read is better ;)

oodles of books.

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