Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction, YA
Review: This book reminded me a lot of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, but I was impressed by how Dessen took a very similar plot and made a very different story out of it. There are a lot of elements in this story other than what happened to Annabel and how she deals with it, including her relationship with her sisters, but Annabel's struggle to come to terms with her experiences is obviously the base of the book. Dessen has a fine ear for the voice of a high schooler. Overall, this is a gripping, realistic story. Like I said, Annabel's a great character and Dessen's writing is so good that we care about even the secondary characters, like Annabel's sisters.
There were two things I didn't like much about this book. The first was Sophie, Annabel's putative friend. She's barely a character in the story, so I can't really say I was disappointed not to see some growth in her, but she's depicted as such a flat character, with few redeeming qualities, that I had a hard time believing in her, which is a problem since, even though she doesn't figure into the story itself, she provides the center for much of the story.
My other problem had to do with Annabel herself. Although a very well-drawn character, much of what happens to her comes as a result of her making the same mistake over and over again. Which is not to say that we don't all do that, but at some point one might hope that a character would become aware of it at least to the point of not being so surprised when someone pointed it out to them. I feel almost nitpicky saying this, but Annabel was otherwise such a well-written character that I hated to see her be given such a glaring flaw.