Summer of Sarah Dessen: Just Listen

51738If I had my way, every summer would be the summer of Sarah Dessen. Seriously, is there a better book than you could be reading on the beach or on a picnic blanket in the park than a Sarah Dessen novel? That doesn’t mean they are all light and fluffy or just beach reads. In fact, the book I’ve been asked to review this week Just Listen is anything but. Still, it is one of my favorites. The first time I read the book I finished it in less than four hours and I’ve reread it several times since. Let’s talk about why…

But first, here is the book’s description from goodreads: 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. 

This is one of the more “issue based” Dessen novels, but it takes on these issues without sacrificing story or good writing. It deals with eating disorders, anger issues, and sexual assault. I both laughed and cried when I read this book. But, frankly, I cried a lot more than I laughed.

A lot of my tears, but also my enjoyment while reading, stemmed from feeling connected with Annabel. Throughout the story, she balances many different stressors at the same time. Her way of dealing with stress is to suppress it and try to please everyone around her, even at a cost to herself. I think she is an important character, but more than that I just liked her. I liked spending time inside of her head while reading the book.

Perhaps a bigger part of why I liked the book so much was Owen. I usually prescribe to the theory that girls like literary heroines for their flaws and like literary heroes for their positive attributes, but Owen is definitely the exception to that rule. He is definitely a flawed character. But he is so aware of his flaws and kind and accepting of himself. The way he’s channeled his problems into a passion for music was so interesting. And his extreme honestly made him a very interesting foil for Annabel. Also, many of the scenes where he and Annabel are becoming friends (and maybe more!) are so swoon-worthy. That certainly doesn’t hurt.

I also love love loved the sister aspects to this novel. Annabel defines herself by who she is in relation to her sisters. Watching the relationships change and them start to take care of each other more was really touching … and I’m definitely a sucker for a good sister story.

These are just a few of the reasons I like Just Listen so much. It’s a book I wish I’d read when I was in high school, but am so happy to have discovered in my twenties! And I hope if you haven’t read it yet, you give it a try and come back to tell me what you think.

If you have read it I’d love to hear your opinion now in the comments! I’d also love to hear if you have a favorite Sarah Dessen book and why it is your favorite!

Also … if you post pictures of yourself holding your favorite Sarah Dessen books on twitter, facebook, or instagram and use the hashtage #IHeartDessen you might be chosen at the end of July to win a full set of all twelve of her novels and a tote bag full of summer essentials.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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