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!
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