Bonnie Shores's Reviews > Just Listen

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
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really liked it
bookshelves: teen-life

Friend: How was your day?
Me: Fine.
Friend: What did you do?
Me: Nothing.

That's kinda how I felt about this book. It was "fine". I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. And, for most of it, I felt like "nothing" was going on. And I really don't feel like talking about the banality.

"Why this book?" you might be asking. Well, I chose this book to fulfill a challenge—read a book tagged "family" at least 10 times. This one was tagged 63 times as family and it was by the Sarah Dessen. I was feeling good about my choice.

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BUT... While this book is a work of fiction, you truly had to suspend all disbelief in order to accept the premise that Annabel, a beautiful high school girl who has been modeling her whole life, who has two older sisters who were also models, and who comes from an affluent family, would be shunned by her entire school after a supposed incident with her best friend's boyfriend. Really? Everyone is so afraid of Sophie (the so-called best friend) that no one will talk to Annabel anymore? No one asks her what really happened? And she's so afraid of confrontation that she never shares her true feelings with anyone?

I get that the point of the story was that things are often much different than they appear to be on the surface, but Annabel was written in such a way as to appear pretty much flawless. From the beginning, I felt disconnected from her and her social plight. Once her sister's "illness" (anorexia) was introduced, and Annabel struck up an unlikely friendship with Owen, a reformed bad boy (and giant teddy bear) with a commitment to truth-telling, the story got more interesting. Still... (btw, this word was used in this way so often that I wished I had kept count).

It wasn't until about two-thirds of the way through that I actually started liking Just Listen. I was sure I was only going to rate it 3-stars, partly because of the disconnect and partly because I was frustrated with Annabel's reticence to do the right thing out of fear of confrontation. But, by around the 70% mark, we finally see the beginning of a healthy relationship between Annabel and Owen; we are finally made to understand why Whitney (the sister with anorexia) is the bitch that she is and you really feel for her and want her to succeed; we finally see the growth of Kirsten (the eldest sister) from self-absorbed nonstop chatterer to introspective college student and it is all good.

A word about Owen... awesome! He was the gentle giant who always had his earbuds in and didn't bother anyone. He loved all kinds of music (except pop) obsessively and had his own show, Anger Management, on the local radio station at 7am on Sunday morning. He was a good listener. A good friend. And a good match for Annabel, outward appearances to the contrary.

I have to also mention a couple of characters whom I really liked. Mallory, Owen's fashion-obsessed little sister, who stages fashion shoots at her house with her friends and makes Owen take the pictures. She's adorable in her exuberance! Also, Rolly, Owen's best friend and radio station co-worker who falls madly in love with a girl who punched him during a martial arts exhibit, but is waiting for the perfect moment to strike up a conversation with her. Great supplementary characters. By the way, I'm not going to say anything about Sophie because she was horrible.

Bottom Line: I like Sarah Dessen's writing style, but this book wasn't great. I know 4 stars means "really liked it", but I think of the stars as letter grades. A-Excellent, B-Good, C-Fair, D-Poor, F-Fail. So this is probably a B-, but I always round up. 😉

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Favorite Quotes:

"Maybe it was a stupid exercise and you couldn't grow things in winter. But there was something I liked about the idea of those seeds, buried so deep, having at least a chance to emerge. Even if you couldn't see it beneath the surface, molecules were bonding, energy pushing up slowly, as something worked so hard all alone to grow."

"I was beginning to understand, though, that there were no such things as absolutes. Not in life or in people. Like Owen said, it was day by day if not moment by moment. All you could do was take on as much weight as you can bear and, if you're lucky, there's someone close enough by to shoulder the rest."

"Don't think or judge. Just listen."
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Reading Progress

August 7, 2017 – Shelved
August 10, 2017 – Started Reading
August 12, 2017 – Shelved as: teen-life
August 12, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Nadia (last edited Aug 18, 2017 06:33AM) (new) - added it

Nadia Awadi Me too, I always give 4 stars to a 3,5 star-book. I never give 2 stars. I feel bad for even giving 3 stars. Even though I read like 380 books already but it's soo hard to give a bad rating. Anyway, great review like always.


message 2: by C. (new)

C. I'll keep shouting it and it's about time people join me. We need a ten-star scale. Giviing a book that isn't very good 4 stars is not helpful to future investors of our time but you needed a way to show the author or novel is far better than others you've read. We don't need half stars, we need ten to properly identify liking something much better than another. Spread the word I've been explaining solo for years.


Bonnie Shores Nadia wrote: "Me too, I always give 4 stars to a 3,5 star-book. I never give 2 stars. I feel bad for even giving 3 stars. Even though I read like 380 books already but it's soo hard to give a bad rating."

Thank you, Nadia. :) I find it difficult to give a bad rating as well because there are so many things to consider. Does the author write well? Do you like the premise? Do you like any of the characters? If you can say yes to those basic questions, then giving 3 stars seems harsh, even if it wasn't exactly your "cup of tea". Maybe that's the author in me that knows what it takes to write a book. Who knows?! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Bonnie Shores C. wrote: "I'll keep shouting it and it's about time people join me. We need a ten-star scale. Giviing a book that isn't very good 4 stars is not helpful to future investors of our time but you needed a way..."

I agree with you on the 10 star scale, Carolyn. Instead of a 4, I probably would've gone with a 7. And MAYBE if I didn't write a review, I would have rated it 3 stars, But, overall, I still like Sarah Dessen and I just couldn't imagine giving her a 3 (even if it's wrong). 🤔 That said, you are still totally right.


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