Review of Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Time to review a book I think.

Before I go any further, I must point out that this is one of the books given to me free to review by Penguin Books. The only impact this has had is that it meant I got to read some books I might not otherwise have stumbled across. Nor are the Amazon links I’m using here affiliate links. All I get out of these reviews is the joy/horror of reading new books and sharing them with you 🙂

The BookJust Listen by Sarah Dessen
cover image

The facts:
Paperback, 400 pages, ISBN 9780141322919, pub 05 Jul 2007, £5.99, Puffin

That last – Puffin – is a bit of a flag. Puffin is the childrens/young adult imprint of Penguin so if you’re an adult-book-snob, this won’t be for you.

The blurb:
“I’m Annabel. I’m the girl who has it all. Model looks, confidence, a great social life. I’m one of the lucky ones. Aren’t I? My ‘best friend’ is spreading rumours about me. My family is slowly falling apart. It’s turning into a long, lonely summer, full of secrets and silence. But I’ve met this guy who won’t let me hide away. He’s one of those intense types, obsessed with music. He’s determined to make me listen. And he’s determined to make me smile. But can he help me forget what happened the night everything changed?”

The review
As I’ve already said, Puffin books are aimed at the younger end of the market and I’d probably pitch Just Listen to the 15+ girl market, give or take a few years depending on maturity. The writing isn’t so simplistic or childish as to put adult readers off, but it has been pitched to its intended audience and you might find it takes a little while to get used to the style.

From the blurb it’s fairly self explanatory that this book wants to give you a view from the other side, a sneak-peak into the life of the popular girl. To be totally frank, this immediately set my back up and set me out to loathe the book from the start – the ‘popular’ girls made my life unmitigated hell at school, so why would I want to read about them for fun!? Even ten years on, empathy is a bit much to ask for. The opening of the book didn’t exactly endear itself to me either. Far too much scene setting and overly conscious ambiguity. Oooh, look, little miss popular has a secret and her life isn’t so great after all!

I got all that from the blurb.

But I stuck to it because, well, I was curious as to what exactly had happened to bring about Annabel’s fall from grace, and I’m glad I did. Somewhere about chapter three or four I found I was getting caught up in the story and I didn’t put the book down till I’d finished it with a lump in my throat at three in the morning. Personally, I’d have stopped the book one chapter earlier but I can appreciate why the author felt the need to wrap all the loose ends up with a pretty bow.

I never totally warmed to Annabel and the villain(s) of the piece lack any subtlety of character, but the supporting cast are total gems. If anything, the middle sister, Whitney, made the book for me and I’d willingly read more about her. As for the plot, yes it is a little predictable in the grand sweep, but I will admit to being knocked by the main plot revelation. Either kids books have got a LOT darker lately, or my own segue to sci-fi/fantasy in my early teens spared me some fairly gruesome YA fiction!

Would I recommend Just Listen?
For the intended audience: yes, though a qualified yes. I might be being overly prudish, but I’d suggest that parents of younger teens read page 263 to 265 first, if only so they can be prepared for questions that might arise.
For older readers: maybe. It depends on your own personal taste and tolerance for highschool girls and all their neuroses. I enjoyed it but I’m not convinced I want to read it again.

Three mugs of tea.
(More about the rating system used can be found on the about page).

13 thoughts on “Review of Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

  1. i loved the book JUST LISTEN. When i finished reading it i got sad because it was over. I really hope Sarah Dessen writes a sequal to it. I miss Owen and Annabel and all the other characters.

  2. I have to admit I miss some of the characters too Julia. I’m glad you enjoyed the book, and welcome to Bright Meadow and the comments 🙂

  3. i loved this book!!! i was reluctant at first thinking “i don’t want to read some stupid popular girl winging about her life” but once i got started i couldn’t stop! i really enjoyed this book. i loved Owen x2… and i continually complain to my friends asking “Where’s my Owen?”…. i think i may be in love with a fictional character! lol

  4. Claire, I’ll admit to having a little “where’s my Owen?” moment as well. Just because he’s a little bit too good to be true, it doesn’t mean we can’t be a teeny bit in love with him.

    And welcome to Bright Meadow and the comments as well 🙂

  5. I can’t describe what I felt for this book, all I can say is I couldn’t wait to come home from going out so I could read some more. Now, after finishing it I feel like Annabelle and Owen are my real life friends and I can just call them or something so I can talk. I wish! I loved the book and the way the story unfolded more and more the further you got into it was brilliant. Loved it sooooooo much! xxxxxxxxxxx

  6. The book Just Listen is awesome! i never read books over TV (apart from harry potter) but this one i just couldnt put down. i was really bummed when i finished it and i hope sarah writes a sequal.

  7. i love this book! theres so much drama! i love how it explains how Annabel basically has almost 2 seperate lives, home and school,both being bad. Meeting owen was a great twist to the book and they both have great characteristics. “beauty and the beast” is how people thought of them, but it was not like that at all. I LOVE THIS BOOK EVERYONE SHOULD READ IT! 🙂

    think the perfect song to describe Annabels life is song in my head, by sherwood. its perfect.

  8. Abi, Bri and Katyyyy – I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much.

    Purplepenguin – as the other comments show, the book is rather good.

    And welcome everyone to Bright Meadow and the comments 🙂

  9. i’m still reading just listen but i love it a lot! i also like how the action and excitment starts like right away!! i totallly reccommend it!!

  10. My favorite character is Owen because he is big and everyone expects him to be big and tough and mean but he is really a big huge teddy bear. He seems like a nice person and that is why I like him. This book is very good so far. I would, without a doubt, recommend this book to anyone.

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