“. . . music is a total constant . . . No matter what else has changed in you or the world, that one song stays the same, just like that moment.”
From Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
This is a contemporary young adult novel that is not a simple coming of age story. It’s a story about coming to an age where making decisions, certain decisions, can be life changing or life crushing.
Kirsten, Whitney and Annabel Greene are sisters and also share a bond of being thrust into the world of modeling at an early age. Annabel is the main character, yet we get to know her siblings and their troubled pasts and uncertain futures through her story. Told in first person, Annabel keeps a secret from her sisters, her parents and even the reader, only alluding to it in certain passages. She seems to think that some things are best untold, and although she has lost her best friend, Clarke, and is tormented by her fair weather friend, Sophie, Annabel remains silent. Her resolve “not to tell” starts to flicker when she befriends another outsider, Owen Armstrong.
Owen’s world is music. His soundtrack for life is stashed on a battered iPod that he carries wherever he goes. He shares his love of music with Annabel, going as far as making her a set of CDs that she finds foreign and unsettling at times. He has a radio show that she listens to regularly, despite the fact she doesn’t care much for his playlist, and their friendship becomes the basis for Annabel telling the truth about a night that has changed her life forever. You rally for Annabel and know along the way the choice she needs to make, but it was possible for me to be patient and let her find her own way. In the end, she paves a path of truth for herself as well as an unexpected acquaintance.
This book is filled with references to music genres and the world of public radio. It also gives you a look at the world of teenage modeling.
I’m always amazed by authors who can write well. I don’t mean grammatically correct, or making sure all of the proper elements are in the story. I mean taking characters and giving them each personalities and conflicts that make them leave the page and come into the room where you are reading. Sarah Dessen is one of those authors. My love for music brought me to this novel and my love of great writing will take me to another from her collection.
I will tell you that I consider this book to be for older middle school and high school readers. I also think that parents should look through this book. The subject matter is mature and can be a bit unsettling. Yet, it offers an opportunity for serious conversations.
Have a wonderful weekend!