Not all is as it seems in the Greene’s modern glass home. From the outside, sisters Annabel, Whitney and Kirsten Greene look perfect. All three are models, and Annabel starred in a commercial as the high school girl who has everything. Under the surface though, it’s an entirely different story.
Sarah Dessen's Just Listen takes a look inside the glass house. Whitney has an eating disorder which she doesn’t want to acknowledge, Kirsten is the oldest and doesn’t want to model anymore, and then there’s Annabel. After her best friend dumps her, Annabel spends her summer in a self-imposed social exile. She starts her junior year alone and friendless. Sitting alone at lunch, Annabel meets Owen, a tall, music-obsessed, “bad-boy” who teaches her about what it means to be honest. Through their friendship Annabel finds her voice and begins to use it.
One of the things I love about Sarah Dessen’s books is that, while they can be predictable, I always find characters with whom I can identify.
People-pleasing Annabel can’t stand to disappoint. She goes to great lengths in order to keep up appearances, even if it means lying. Avoidance is her modus operandi. She avoids what happened at a party before the summer; she avoids Clarke, her childhood best friend; she avoids dealing with Whitney’s eating disorder; she avoids telling her mother she no longer wants to model. She learns from Owen that lies by omission are still lies.
I used to believe that everyone had to like me or agree with me. I wish I had “an Owen” to inspire me to live in complete honesty, not mean-spirited, unsolicited criticism masquerading as honesty, but the kind that enables me to take ownership of my feelings and opinions. It has taken me a long time begin to understand that I have to respect myself, and I can’t avoid situations hoping that they will magically change. In facing things as they really are, I learn to accept them and, as Annabel does, become the person I am supposed to be.