…On Just Listen by Sarah Dessen + GIVEAWAY!

Posted June 29, 2012 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 34 Comments

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak/Penguin
Publish Date: April 6, 2006
383 Pages
Source:  My Bookshelf

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. –(summary from Goodreads)

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

My Thoughts
:  I finally read my first Sarah Dessen book. I know, I know… sometimes I do actually think I’ve been living under a rock. I’m just gonna get right to my feelings. 

The first thing you need to know is this:
The ONE, yes one, way I think I could relate to Annabel Greene
is through her tendency to close herself off and not share her thoughts.
Annabel tends to be quiet, not to talk too much, and I like this.
I don’t really think I’m introverted but I do tend to close myself off from the vast majority of people and not reveal too much of myself. Is this intentional or accidental? Probably a little bit of both, depending on the situation, the event, who I’m talking to, all that stuff. I think that sometimes the world talks too much and very rarely, if ever, listens. So sometimes I just don’t bother. 

I may be wrong, but I think Annabel feels the same way, to a degree, and she shuts herself off from everyone around her. Part of the reason she does this is because of her past traumatic experiences and part of it is because she is just tired of hearing everyone else talk and their own problems (like her family). Annabel has a ton of difficult things going on (that she hasn’t shared with anyone) and sometimes talking about it all is just too much to even consider when you already bear the weight of everything. Plus, I believe Annabel feels like she doesn’t have a strong enough voice, or even a voice at all. I found this to be one of the saddest things about the entire book. 

Friends, don’t yell at me – but I just did not find Annabel to be an extremely likable character. Or rather, I just had a really though time connecting with her outside of her quiet self. Either way, I may change my mind tomorrow, or maybe some of you will change my mind in talking about this book – and that is totally okay. Feel free to talk to me about Annabel and YOUR feelings about her, please. Despite my weird feelings about her, I love love love the pairing of Annabel and Owen, and the friendship/ relationship that formed. It wasn’t easy but it was strong. Those two played so well off of one another and in real life, that kind of thing is, I believe, totally possible. Still, I really wanted Annabel to perk up a bit and find some gumption but by the time she did, the book was basically over. 

Oh! You guys, I’m so sorry for being so hard on Annabel, because I know lots of you love her and this book so much! The poor girl went through a such rough time, but she knew what she needed to do about every situation that came upshe just couldn’t find it in herself to take any action. I wanted Annabel to be stronger, to have some faith in herself, to DO something. And for the purposes of her emotional well-being AFTER everything, Annabel did need to reveal a little of herself to somebody (even though I support her being quiet and inward in the other areas of her life). Does any of that make any sense at all? Quite possibly not.

Let’s move on…

The second thing you need to know is this:
I. LOVE. MUSIC. So, so much.
So YAY for this book having a music-loving character in it… 
…and not just a person that turns on the radio and listens to whatever is currently playing. Owen Armstrong loves music. Like, really loves it. I can relate to that so much. When I hear music that I like (not on the radio), I want to know more about the people making that music: where the band is from, how many albums do they have, are they touring currently, when can I see them live, etc. These are all very important questions to me. I also like to listen to a very wide range of music (not only music with banjos in it, which may surprise one of you out there). I really feel like Owen is this kind of guy too, except much more and way cooler. I feel an oddball connection with him in the way of music, and I liked him instantly from the moment I read that he always was listening to his iPod. Because Asheley + iPod = BFF.  

Unrelated to the music, but totally related to Owen: I loved that Owen was always honest and he was a talker. I loved that he kept mostly to himself and he didn’t apologize for being himself and the mistakes that he has made. What a great, great character! Owen was without a doubt my favorite part of Just Listen. 

The third thing you need to know is this:
Y’all, we have talked about these issue books before. 
Asheley does not like intense issue books.
The cover does not scream ISSUES INSIDE
!!! at me.
After reading this book, I’m nervy.

I have been saying FOREVER that I need to get on the Sarah Dessen train. Even before I wanted to read more contemporary YA books, I felt a responsibility to support this North Carolina author. It took much too long for me to read a Dessen and I thought I was doing okay by picking this one up. The cover shows a girl listening to an iPod, which is basically ME. Always. It looked safe! Except that this story was intense. 

Again, y’all, I do not like intense stories. 
If there is intensity, I need to know it beforehand.
I did not realize it before reading and now I feel all weird and twisty. 

After finishing the book just a little while ago, my nerves are still torn up. I can’t deal with stuff like this in the books. I mean, Just Listen was a really GOOD book. And I’m super proud of myself for finally being able to admit that I’ve read a Dessen. But there was some stuff in here that made my heart pound in not-great ways. 

Is this something that I need to prepare myself for with all Sarah Dessen books? Because I’ve read one other Dessen blog post for another book and it sounded pretty intense too. TELL ME, friends. 


Just Listen is an issues book with a pretty cover! There are so many issues in here. I’m not even gonna stress myself out by listing them. Don’t get me wrong – they’re all really well done, well-written. This author knows how to appeal to her target audience by writing her target audience excellently, I think. But this story, y’all – sometimes I cringed, sometimes I wanted to cry, and sometimes I was just mad with my fists balled up. Sure, there was some romance, but in this book it just was not enough for me to counteract all of the intensity I felt with all the bad stuff going on (even though I fell for music-loving Owen like crazy).

Most of the time, I can read a book, suspend my belief (when necessary) and just accept a story as the author created it. Rarely do I despise characters, but there were two characters in this book that were just awful to me. I couldn’t see past their horrible-ness to read them for the sake of the story. I kept getting caught up on all of the drama they were causing, the pain they were causing people, and the horror of the situations surround them. Just, ugh! I don’t know if the author meant for it to be that way or if I just did that to myself, but those two kind of got the best of me.  

So many times in Just Listen I would read good characters making terrible decisions – and I couldn’t do anything to change their minds or help them out. IT WAS SO STRESSFUL FOR ME. I CANNOT DEAL WITH THAT INTENSITY. One bad decision leading to another leading to another, and through everything, Annabel keeps her mouth shut and breaks further and further down until she melts down. Even with Annabel’s parents – I was just like MOM AND DAD, GET A GRIP! OPEN YOUR EYES! 


On a positive note, the things about Just Listen that I liked – I really liked. I loved Owen so much. I loved Rolly and Clarke. I loved the music and the ever-present iPod and all it represented so much, you guys will just never know. And ultimately, Annabel did have a little bit of forward movement or progression of character toward the end, THANK GOODNESS. I think, though, in terms of everything else, I just need to read another of this author’s books before I can call them ‘amazing’ or any other super awesome adjectives. After finishing this book, I feel something, but I’m not really sure what it is. 

Just Listen will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary
Issue Books: Anorexia, Rape, Bullying
Some Romance: No Triangle, Slow-Burn
Stories Containing: Music! 

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

is currently available for purchase. 


Have you read Just Listen? 
Talk to me about it! 

What is your favorite Sarah Dessen book? 


I’m giving away a PAPERBACK copy


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck! 


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


34 responses to “…On Just Listen by Sarah Dessen + GIVEAWAY!

  1. My first Sarah Dessen book was Lock and Key. Lock and Key definitely is a bit more intense because there's a father who is physically abusing his son and the main is trying to adapt to living a life with her older sister. The physical abuse is slapping and beatings. Now my favorite Dessen book is Just Listen. I've it 6 times and my first time was 2 years ago. I would probably recommend for you to read Along For the Ride or The Truth About Forever. Along For the Ride takes place during the summer. These two books overall are a bit more mellow to read.

  2. I don't feel like the other Dessens are that intense-my favorites are This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever, neither of which I think of as intense. Although I do like intense reads, so I may not be the best judge.

  3. I haven't read Just Listen, but I've read Someone Like You. It was interesting, but not my favourite. Anyway if by any chance I win this book I'll give it to my friend she loves her books. Thank you. 🙂

  4. I read this book a couple of years ago and it was my first Dessen book. It was okay. To be honest I really sturggled with it in the beginning and though I didn't fall in love with it like I thought I would I am still interested to try another one of Sarah's books down the track. Just not sure which one! Hmm… Great review, glad to hear you enjoyed it! Sorry that you weren't prepared though!

  5. Christina K.

    The only Sarah Dessen book I read and LOVED is Along for the Ride. It's perfect, perfect setting, slow-burn romance, characters that need to get over issues.

  6. Yeah, ok, I haven't read Just Listen, I actually still haven't read any of her books, although she's been on my author-to-try list for years now, and I've heard that they're intense,so I don't have a recommendation, although I've had my eye on Just Listen (because I love books with music) & What Happened to Goodbye 🙂 Thanks for the giveaway & the review!

  7. Okay, I will be honest here. I haven't read any Sarah Dessen's book yet. But I do want to. And to know that there is a music-loving character in Just Listen makes me want to squeal. Also, I love to read intense books (hint: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry).

  8. Sindy Borg

    I have This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever which I both really liked but The Truth About Forever is my favorite, so I would recommend you read it next.

  9. I have not read any of her books yet but they're all on my wishlist 🙂 I really like the covers, they're all beautiful!
    Thanks a lot for the giveaway.

  10. Amazing review! Sarah Dessen is one of the best contemporary romance authors of all time! I love her work! The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby, What Happened To Goodbye.. all amazing books!

  11. I adore Just Listen. It might be my favorite Sarah Dessen! Either that or The Truth About Forever. Or This Lullaby. How can you choose?!

  12. Haven't read Just Listen, but it's on my list. What Happened to Goodbye and the Truth about Forever are probably my favorites.

  13. I have not read Just Listen. My favorite Sarah Dessen book would have to be This Lullaby which I absolutely loved!!! I would recommend the same to you!

  14. I have yet to read a Sarah Dessen book! Several are on my to-read list (and one is on my bookshelf!), but I still haven't managed to pick one up yet. However, I lovelovelove intensity in my books, so I'm thinking I'll love this one. 🙂 Thanks for yet another awesome review, Asheley! 😉

  15. Thanks for your honest review of this book! I'm sorry that you didn't realize how issue focused Sarah Dessen books are. They really are heavy issue – side of romance (though the guy the girl meets always helps her get over whatever it is she's facing). I have read this book, though honestly I don't remember a lot about it – and seriously NOTHING about Annabel or the issue she dealt with. Is that strange? Maybe I blocked it out? What I DO remember about this story is Owen and his love of music and how great he was, especially to Annabel.

    This is the third Dessen book I read in a relatively short amount of time (I would also recommend The Truth About Forever as your second read – I think that Adam recently reviewed it – and liked it too). And I definitely got a bit tired of the SAME plot flow. Although the issues are always different, Dessen books all follow a similar pattern. This might help you with another one, so you won't be surprised. I honestly, like a little bit more romance balanced into my issues, which is why these books aren't my favorites. Plus I feel like I'm beyond some of these teen problems, and don't have lots of fun reading about characters facing them.

  16. Jen

    Yes i have read Just Listen its actually one of my faves:) along with ALong for the Ride and Lock and Key I LOVE Sarah Dessen books:)

  17. I remember reading this book a loooong time ago for the first time and thinking 'ohh, okaaay, there's a lot of ISSUES here, not sure I like this" and then Annabel was all sulking and I kept thinking 'you idiot, go to the police, I know you don't want to upset your family but this is your freaking life!'… so after I finished it I was like all rants and I was upset that it was my first Sarah Dessen book that I didn;t truly and completely loved…

    But then, then I re-read it some months ago and I saw the light of it and why it appeal to so many people and I opened myself to the characters and I just ended up completely in love with it, I love Owen and I love Annabel and their families and friends and I love the quotes and yes, you get the picture…

    Anyway, my favorite-favorite is This Lullaby <3

  18. (I haven't read any of the other comments, so if I'm repeating things Asheley, my apologies 🙂 )

    First, I have read 5/10 Dessen books. Other than Dreamland (about an abusive relatinship) I consider Dessen books to be a hybrid between fluff and issue… Issue light, if you will. Have you read Ellen Hopkins? SHE writes Issue Books. Sarah Dessen… (even this book) IMO doesn't. There are issues IN them, but I don't classify them as issue books (although I will mention what issues are at stake/brought up/influential etc).

    I will also say that while The Truth About Forever is probably my favorite of the Dessen books I've read, Owen is FAR and away my favorite boy so far 🙂

  19. Flo

    I have this book but haven't read it yet. Heard it's one of her better ones! I started Truth About Forever, but couldn't get into it.

  20. I'm a Dessen newbie, too! Hooray, it's not just me. I'm a lot like you in that I like to have a warning regarding issue books, so thank you very much for the heads up.

    The book I've had suggested to me is "Along For The Ride," so that's the one I'm going to start with. It doesn't look too intense. Bikes are generally non-threatening.

  21. The first Sarah Dessen book I ever read was The Truth about Forever, which I absolutely adored. It's definitely a little lighter than Just Listen, so you might like that one more. But at least in this one, there's Owen!

  22. Yeah I've read pretty much all of Dessen's books except for 3 and they are ALL sort of issue books. I love them though and yes they are pretty intense.

    I am glad you had your first Dessen experience. I would say if you do read her again, go in prepared for heart pain in the best possible way. Also the next one you read should be This Lullaby, that is far and away my favorite ever.

    And sigh, OWEN. Isn't he just wonderful?

  23. I have read most of Dessen's books and yes, they all have some big issues with them lying buried under the surface. I read Just Listen and while I really enjoyed the music aspects like you, I too had problems with the MC not standing her ground. There were so many moments that I just wanted to jump inside that book and knock a character or two flat OUT! After reading it I really wished that Annabel had done that or at the very least given them a piece of her mind. It would have made me feel better anyway…

    And I am in TOTAL agreement with April on This Lullaby. It's hands down my favorite of Dessen's books, and yes, it's also got some issues, but what I like is that the MC of that book, Remy, is very different from most of Dessen's other lead characters. Let's just say Remy would have NO problem taking down someone who was being nasty to her:) It's a great book and I have a copy (the only Dessen book I actually own) if you ever want to give it a try!

  24. I'm a terrible YA lover since I've read absolutely nill Sarah Dessen. I know, I know. I've been meaning to get to it, and I think the first one I want to read is Along for the Ride because it just looks so cute :]

  25. Na

    She is a new author for me. I've been meaning to try her books and recently saw a few of her books being re-issued with new covers.

  26. I have never actually read a Sarah Dessen book so I guess I'm REALLY behind the times! I have heard good things about her books though so I definitely want to give them a go soon.

  27. Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. The first book of hers I read was Someone Like You – I read it when I was about 16 I think, then had my best friend read it because I was sure it had been written about us, then I read it again when I got it back from her. My other favorite of hers is Along for the Ride. I haven't read Just Listen, but it's on my list! Thanks for the honest review, and for the giveaway!

  28. Ileana A.

    I haven't read any Sarah Dessen's books T___T but i'm going to do a Read-A-Long with my sister and two friends so that way we can catch up! But I've read really good reviews about all of her books! So i'm reaaaally looking forward to read them!

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