Monday, August 28, 2006


I've been wanting to read this book since it came out in April. I FINALLY found it in the library (yay!). I have read a few of Sarah Dessen's books, and they've all been good reads - kind of beach-y, fun, slice of life type books. But this one was SO good. It's amazing how she developed her characters. At first I was like - oh no - this is reading a lot like SPEAK, which is practically my favorite book of all time. And there are similarities, but JUST LISTEN takes off in a completely different direction. Annabelle is the youngest of three girls (Cailly - can you relate? Except we have a fivefootgiant boy wedged in there too...) and totally caught up in family drama. Not just the usual curfew/sibling rivalry/I-hate-you-because-you-stole-my-hairdryer drama that can arise in a house with three girls - real issues. The oldest sister is completely over the top (but SO realistic - we have all known a Kirsten in our lives) - loud, in your face, sentimental, and way too energetic. The middle girl is Whitney - the stormy, moody, silent type. And then there's Annabelle who wants to keep her mom happy and her house in some kind of semblance of peace - but mostly is trying to figure out who she is.

I did not expect this book to be about eating disorders. I thought it was going to be about rape/assault and its horrific aftermath. But a lot of the book is about this family dealing with Whitney's anorexia/bulimia. Books and movies RARELY make me cry but there is one scene that is so powerful and frightening and sad (I don't think I have to tell you that it was the bathroom scene...Cailin when you read this - beware.), that I did. There is another QUITE disturbing scene which made me very angry - scared for all women - and want to tell my sisters to NEVER EVER let your guard down. Never. Not even at your catholic school Miss Cailly.

The way the characters were developed in the book was so well done. Without Kirsten's dramatics - it would be hard for the reader to know just how sick Whitney was - and without the Mom's past depression - it would be hard to rationalize why Annabelle couldn't just be honest with her mom and tell her she wanted to quit modeling, etc. But the way each character was written into the book - just made everything make sense. I never thought to myself - please, Annabelle would never be that honest with Owen. But I knew she would just the way Owen was introduced to her and because from the beginning we knew how much honesty meant to Owen and why. Very cool.

The other thing about the book that I thought was so realistic was the friendship between Sophie and Annabelle. Sophie is Miss Popularity. She rules by fear, and you just feel so sad for Annabelle that she is so taken by her and wants to be her friend. She is in a perpetual bad mood and icy to everyone - but without her Annabelle knows she would never have been as popular as she is - and for that she sticks by her. I've seen this same kind of friendship before. Where people put up with all sorts of abuse just because they know if they didn't, they'd find themselves on the bad side of the wrong person. We had a girl like that in our high school - thank goodness - the year ahead of me. But her wrath filtered to our grade too - and we found ourselves doing jaw exercises because she said we'd get jowels if we didn't - and learning not to react when she said things like - 'OMG I just love picking my nose in public, don't you?'



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