Annie's Reviews > Just Listen

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
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's review
Apr 07, 2008

liked it
Recommended for: junior high schoolers, their teachers.
Read in April, 2008

** spoiler alert ** This is YA fiction, pretty enjoyable, though I'm not dashing off to finish it by any means.

It's about a girl who is kind of caught up in how she wants to be seen-- a model, actually. Like, literally, that is her job. And she apparently made some pretty terrible decisions that cost her at least a couple of friendships and led her to the kind of ostracism you can face in junior high and high school. And then she befriends another "outcast" and begins her first real friendship (my assessment, not necessarily hers or the authors.)

There's kind of a lot in it. Mean girls. Eating disorders. Family secrets. Depression. And if I am reading the foreshadowing correctly, I think we've got a history of sexual abuse about to be disclosed. Pretty heavy stuff, but not all that heavy-handed.

My one complaint here is that the main "mean girl," Sophie, is not a character at all. Like, the author doesn't have an actual person in mind, only a conglomeration of character traits and tics. I don't actually believe in this girl, not because I haven't met girls who appeared to be like this girl, but more because I think those girls only appeared to be this way. I mean, from my vantage point at the time, the girl who "dumped" me in junior high was just mean and petty and a snob. But that girl had her own interior life, and I know now that a) she was a lot more complicated, b) she was doing what she had seen modeled for her, and c) she had no idea how to change our relationship and she didn't like it the way it was. The author seems to give a passing nod to "she is more complicated" with the main character acknowledging that Sophie's parents had a bad break-up and now Sophie and her mom are impoverished, but to me, it mostly reads like the author didn't bother creating an inner life for this antagonist.

This is totally making me think about my own writing, which, A+ for that. I really want to allow my characters their own rich lives off-page, if that makes sense. I don't have to tell their stories, but I have to at least know that they have them, you know?

eta: finished the book. The middle-to-end sort of dragged there; there was a totally perfect awesome moment for resolution that the protagonist didn't take, for weak reasons. It was, I think, the only moment of the plot that felt like a false note to me. Slightly disappointing.

This was more than made up for by the actual resolution of the storylines. I really liked these characters, in the end, and I was pleasantly surprised by the denouement of the sexual abuse storyline.

So, in summary, solidly good book, somewhat predictable but entertaining. And I am actually going to miss these characters now that I am done!
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04/06 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

sounds llike alot of girls are like that these days!

Graili In the last half of the book I just lost all sympathy with Annabel.

Delaney Have you read any other Sarah Dessen books?

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