I picked this book up, along with several other Sarah Dessen books, a few weeks ago, without looking too closely at any of them, just knowing that Sarah Dessen generally gets quite good reviews, and thinking that I would enjoy it.
So, once again, not looking at what I was going to read was probably not the best idea, but, thankfully, less traumatising than the last time I did that – which was Sharp Objects – and I did enjoy this book.
Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything” — at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store.
This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.
Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.
So… I had a whole post written here, and then WordPress deleted it as I published. That’s frustrating.
Anyways. I read this book last month, when I was working in Brussels, and I read it in parks, in a hotel room, on trains, on buses, on trams – I worked my way through it steadily, because it was a compelling and different coming of age story, about the girl who had everything becoming the girl who had nothing, and slowly working her way back up to having everything she needs.
The book doesn’t tell you, from the blurb, exactly what it’s about – a major plot point is the reason she and Sophie aren’t friends any more, and it’s not half as petty as you might think.
From the blurb, it seems like this book will be entirely that girl meets boy, and boy fixes all the problems in her life with a turn of his dark and handsome head, which, to be honest, wouldn’t really interest me all that much. To compound things, Owen, the tall and handsome boy, is a singularly pretentious character with a high-minded dismissal of music – something with which I have a deep and lasting affinity – which is entirely derogatory towards anything which is not to his taste – his taste being bizarre and fringe ‘enlightened’ music.
To be quite frank, I hated the character of Owen.
But, thankfully, this book was much more than that. Yes, Owen played a big part in it – but when you’re a teenage girl, doesn’t every dark and handsome boy? Even Owen was more than just a single-dimension character obsessed with music, and all the characters in the book were fleshed out and seemed real to me.
Just Listen doesn’t shy away from tough topics – from the blurb, one would think that it focuses on an ED. But, actually, it doesn’t. The real topic is clear from the second or third chapter, and it’s the reason why Sophie and Annabel aren’t friends any more.
I, personally, would have preferred if that was flagged up a little clearer, to be quite frank, because it’s not something I particularly like to read about. Being in floods of tears on a eurostar next to an uncomfortable man who can’t move away was awkward for both of us, you see.
Nonetheless, the book was interesting, and it clearly affected me, and despite Owen’s incredibly irritating characterisation, he did fit into the story well, so I’m deducting one star only between the poor flagging and Owen being irritating.
Would happily recommend, but probably if I knew the subject matter would affect a friend of mine, I’d mention it to them beforehand.