A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This book sheds light on the reality that things are not always as they seem, particularly in the lives of teenagers. Readers will gain insight into and learn to grapple with certain anxieties of being a teen.
Be honest and work to find and accept your true self. It's important to face conflicts head-on rather than avoid them.
Positive Role Models
Annabel and Owen prove to be a truly inspiring pair as the two complement each other along the road to achieving personal growth. Owen, back from anger management classes, has learned the importance of honesty, and encourages Annabel to open her eyes and discover the same. Annabel and Owen aren't your typical teen protagonists, but they are absorbing and unique. Readers will find it easy to relate to them and root for them -- especially as Annabel is able to express herself more easily.
Violence & Scariness
An attempted rape described in flashback. A few punches and a mention of castration.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some kissing and making out, references to teens who have had sex.
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Four-letter words and sexual slurs.
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Products & Purchases
Clothing, MP3 player, car, soft drink brands mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink and smoke, some drunkenness.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sarah Dessen's Just Listen involves a teen girl, Annabel, struggling to recover from a traumatic experience she had at the beginning of the summer and dreading her approaching junior year of high school. Teens will find it easy to root for Annabel and her love interest Owen, who are absorbing and unique characters. They'll appreciate the author's message about the value of honesty, and cheer when Annabel is finally able to express herself. There's a fair amount of swearing, drinking, and smoking by teens, and an attempted rape is described in flashback. A teen girl has an eating disorder.
Is It Any Good?
This angst-filled, moving novel is so engrossing it's truly difficult to put down. Thanks to author Sara Dessen's exquisite attention to detail, each moment in Just Listen is rendered so clearly and vividly that readers can easily enter Annabel's world: her misery at school and home, her inability to deal forthrightly with any of her problems, and her developing relationship with troubled outcast Owen. The characters are equally vivid, especially menacing Owen, with his bizarre musical tastes, theories, and unusual life outside school. He's a real original. And all of the main and secondary characters have an intriguing emotional complexity usually missing in teen problem novels.
Though Dessen doesn't reveal the pivotal event until near the end, most readers will have figured it out almost from the beginning. Still, it's a testament to her skill that despite the fact that for large stretches not much happens, this is a real page-turner.
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