Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Just Listen

Just Listen

Sarah Dessen
For ages 14 and up
Penguin, 2006   ISBN: 978-0670061051

On the outside, Annabel Greene seems to have the ideal life. She is beautiful, is a model, and she is best friends with the most popular girl in school. What more could a girl want? Then Annabel goes to an end-of-school party and everything goes horribly wrong. Sophie’s boyfriend, Will Cash, tries to rape Annabel, and Sophie accuses Annabel of trying to steal her boyfriend. Annabel cannot bring herself to tell anyone what really happened, and when Annabel goes back to school in the fall, Sophie makes sure that Annabel is ostracized. The friends Annabel had before Sophie came into her life have long since given up on Annabel and she is alone.

Then Annabel gets to know Owen Armstrong, a boy who got into trouble with the police not long ago. Owen, unlike Annabel, is incredibly honest, and in his company she starts to experience what it would be like to actually be herself. Instead of pretending that everything is all right, Annabel is finally able to talk about her sister’s bulimia, and about the fact that she hates modeling. The one thing that she cannot tell him is what happened at that party. The hateful experience is still there, preventing Annabel from connecting with Owen, her old friends, and her family. Just when things seem to get better, the attack on Annabel comes back to haunt her, and she retreats into her pain and fear again.

This incredibly powerful novel tells the story of a girl who cannot find her voice and who cannot get past a painful experience. Trying to keep up a façade, she struggles to find the courage to tell the people close to her that everything is not all right and that they all have problems that they need to talk about and share.

With realistic characters that develop as the story unfolds, this is a story that will resonate with anyone who has been crippled by fear. It will help young people to understand how dangerous peer pressure can be, and how important it is to always be oneself, no matter what.