Book Review : Just Listen by Sarah Dessem

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9389c-a-m-2bwillard2b-2bunexpected2bchanges2b-2bsynopsis

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.

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Just Listen is a beautiful coming of age story. It follows Annabel Green, a girl who, at first glance, appears to have everything: looks, popularity, friends. All that changes during the summer before junior year. Something happened at the beginning of that summer, that left Annabel lonely, friendless and despised by her former best friend.

Contrary to what you might think at first glance, this is not a love story. At least, the love story is not the central part of the plot. This is a story about family, about how important it is to speak up and at the same time, to listen to others. It’s about how we hide the truth a lot of time, for different reasons, either to protect others, or because we consider our problems to not be as important as everyone else’s. We keep people in the dark, we push them away because we don’t know how to ask for help. We’d rather say were “fine” instead of saying “I’m not as okay as I seem”. We hide things out of shame, or because we believe others might not pay any attention to us if we asked them to. We don’t realize that most of the times, our silence speaks louder than words, it may even become deafening.

It’s a story about loneliness, appearances and how deceiving they may be. About bullying and friendship – how easily it can break and how difficult it is to put back together. About music. About sisterhood and personal growth. About how we shouldn’t think or judge sometimes, we should just listen.

I saw a lot of myself in Annabel. Her silence, her white lies – it’s something I do as well, a lot of the times. Because I never see myself as important or because I don’t want to burden the ones around me. She’s a compelling character and I loved the dynamic of her family. I loved that this was a story about how family can help, how family can heal and support its members. How, although you may go through tough times, they’re always there to help you through thick and thin. Even if sometimes it may seem it’s too late.

I should mention trigger warnings for eating disorder and abuse. Keep that in mind.

Favourite quotes:

“Don’t think or judge, just listen.”

“Because this is what happens when you try to run from the past. It just doesn’t catch up, it overtakes … blotting out the future.

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