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REVIEW: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Dear Ms. Dessen:

If I were to ever write a book, I would want to write like you. Your stories of young womanhood and the pain of growing up are rendered with small strokes, small details, but with broad feeling. I can honestly say that there isn’t a book of yours that I haven’t loved. I have a young girl and will be setting aside your novels for her to read when she comes of age. When I went into this book, I had high expectations and while the book isn’t perfect, it was still a good read.

Just Listen Sarah DessenThis is Story of My Life Annabel, who suffers a not uncommon high school experience, and who excels at avoidance. In the face of conflict, she runs. This hurts her and her friends and family. When Annabel begins a relationship with Owen, who specializes in truth telling, she begins to find courage within herself to face her worst fears and endure confrontation.

Annabel is a girl who seems like she has everything. She is beautiful, does modeling and comes from a seemingly perfect home. Her sisters all modeled but her middle sister is staying at home right now because she is recovering from a terrible bout with an eating disorder. Annabel no longer wants to model but her mother so clearly enjoys it that she is loathe to quit now. Annabel exerts her avoidance tendencies over every aspect of her life.

She is on the outs with her best friend, Sophie. Sophie is a mean spirited girl who has become Annabel’s worst enemy. It’s fairly easy to guess the cause of their falling out. Shh. It’s just me, Annabel. is your clue. Because of Annabel’s avoidance tendencies and Sophie’s bitchiness, Annabel is left to each lunch by herself. So she begins to sit at Owen’s table.

Owen is a young man who had to endure Anger Management classes after engaging in one too many brawls. For comedic relief, you pepper Owen’s language with Anger Management terms: IL – Inflammatory Language; R and R – Rephrase and Redirect.” To control his anger, Owen has become a truth teller. He tells the truth – all the time – rather than keeping things bottled up inside. What a great conflict you set up: The Truth Teller and the Conflict Avoider.

The biggest problem that I had with your book was Annabel. Her conflict avoidance tendencies created a huge gulf between herself and everyone around her that I was surprised at how easily Owen could forgive her or her friends could forgive her. Or maybe telling the truth and facing conflict does result in instant forgiveness. The subplot dealing with Annabel’s view of her mother (weak) and her sister’s eating disorder were topics that were mentioned and then glossed over. I am not sure what they served to do but be placeholders, as Owen would say. But the flaws were few and your writing, as always, was a wonder to read. B+

Best regards,



Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. LoopyXxXx
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 18:36:46

    Yo, this is an amazin book i’d give it an A+ !!!!!! peace outtttt

  2. Forgotten Friday – Just Listen « A High and Hidden Place
    Jul 30, 2009 @ 23:13:19

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  3. Alex
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 11:46:09

    This book is very good so far. I am only a few pages into it, but it is a very well written book so far. The book relates to me a lot because the main character relates to how my life is. She tries to avoid her parents like I do most of the time.

  4. Freya Harris
    May 26, 2010 @ 01:40:18

    my girlfriend gas an eating disorder called bulimia, she always throws up what she eats..’~

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  6. Arthritis Pain Relief
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 00:14:55

    for those of us who cannot control anger, i think that anger management should be a reuirement to have a quality life -,*

  7. Paving Slabs
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 23:39:57

    eating disorders are of course sometimes deadly because it can cause the degeneration of one’s health :`’

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