A Year of Sarah Dessen | Just Listen

A Year of Sarah Dessen . Just Listen

One of my reading goals for 2015 was to read more YA. Unfortunately, before I knew it, time got away from me and I hadn’t read as much of the genre as I wanted to. This year, I’m determined that I’m going to read more YA, and I’m going to keep myself on track by reading at least one a month. (More if I can manage to squeeze them in!)

Sarah Dessen first popped up on my radar when her latest book, Saint Anything was released last year. It was all over my Goodreads timeline, and I was sucked right in by the stunning cover. Of course I clicked on it immediately to read the blurb, and then followed up by clicking on her name to see what her back list looked like. After reading several of her blurbs, I was totally sucked in and bound and determined I was going to give this new-to-me author a go. One of the draws of Sarah Dessen is that her books appear to be stand-alones (though I’ve heard there is some character crossover,) and sometimes it’s just nice to read a book and not have the pressure of the rest of the series breathing down your neck. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great series as much as the next reader, but I’m in the middle of too many right now to commit to a new one. (Unless it’s brand new and I can keep up book by book – then I’m all in! You know how that goes.) Anyway…I thought this would be a nice jumping off point to ensure I’m incorporating this genre into my reading schedule, and after some discussion with some Goodreads buddies of mine, Just Listen seemed like the perfect place to begin!

Just ListenJust Listen by Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: April 6th, 2006

Synopsis 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.

Angie’s Review – 5 Stars – A+

Just Listen was the very poignant story of Annabel, whose life was significantly changed at the end of the previous school year when she and her best friend publicly parted ways. As the new school year starts, Annabel finds herself alone, sort of drifting through her life just doing what’s expected of her. As I finished up this story, I couldn’t help but think how important it was. There was so much about this book that just resonated with me. Parts of it flung me right back to my own high school days.

What I loved first and foremost about this book was how it was clear was that so much had shaped Annabel into who she was, and that even when Owen entered the picture, her life revolved around much more than just him. Her sister’s plights were taking their toll on her, her continued modeling was getting to her, and Sophie no longer speaking to her was devastating to her. Having said that, let’s move on to Owen, because I did love his character. He and Annabel had very little in common, but with Annabel’s open mind, she was able to learn a lot from Owen. I love how they embraced their differences instead of shying away from them. Owen’s stint in anger management was something that he took seriously, and he used what he knew to try and help Annabel communicate better. As Annabel began to act differently, people responded to her differently, and not always in the way she expected. They continued to surprise her.

Most of the book is building up to a reveal of what happened between Annabel and Sophie. I feel like this event was revealed at just the right time. I never felt like this book was keeping a secret from me, it was only waiting for the perfect moment to tell me. Subsequent events prove that while a traumatic even shapes you, the events directly following have just as much of an impact.

Other things I really enjoyed:

This book gave a realistic portrayal of a high school from the party where, with enough liquor, can bond with anyone to how fair-weathered friendships can be at that age.

Owen and his sister, Mallory, were wonderful secondary characters who stole every scene they had together. Mallory was the typical annoying little sister, and she was my favorite character from the book.

This book demonstrates how hard it can be to be honest, even with yourself. And while the journey is hard and not without it’s bumps, it’s worth it.

The therapy lingo Owen used, and how everyone around him adopted it and was so hellbent on keeping him on the right track.


I listened to the audio of this book, and at first I thought it was slow (the narrator, not the story) but once I kicked it up to 1.5, my reading experience was much more enjoyable!

I absolutely loved Just Listen, and I am so excited to dive into the rest of Sarah Dessen’s books. I’ve made a list of the ones I want to read over the next year, but if you think there’s a must read that’s missing from my list or something I should bump up, let me know in the comments.


Rating: 5 Stars = A+

1. Just Listen – March 2016 checkmark
2. Lock and Key – April 2016
3. Saint Anything – May 2016
4. The Truth About Forever – June 2016
5. Dreamland – July 2016
6. Someone Like You – August 2016
7. This Lullaby – September 2016
8. Along for the Ride – October 2016
9. That Summer – November 2016
10. The Moon and More – December 2016
11. Keeping the Moon – January 2017
12. What Happened to Goodbye – February 2017

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