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 Book – Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Paperback, 400 pages, ISBN 9780141322919, pub 05 Jul 2007, Â£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.
“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?”
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).