Just Listen by Sarah Dessen.
The Plot: Annabel is about to start her junior year. Last year her life seemed perfect; good friends, a modeling career, a picture perfect family. This year, her best friend won't talk to her, and the entire school is following suit in ostracising her. Annabel never wanted the modeling career that consumes her mother, yet she cannot say no. Her perfect older sister is being treated for an eating disorder. The only person who will talk to her is fellow outcast Owen.
The Good: I love Sarah Dessen. Love, love, love.
Why? Because she captures real life so well. Here, the way that friends can let you down and betray you. How a family may look perfect from the outside. How two sisters in the same family can live thru one event and remember it in two vastly different ways. The friendship dynamics (good and bad) are real and honest (almost painfully so.)
And let's not forget the boys. Ah, those Dessen boys. Are they unrealistic? Maybe. But I adore them; Owen is smart, flirty, bad but not really, strong, respectful. Love him. Add Owen to my list of awesome men. (And he's not perfect; he makes mistakes. Loses his temper. Gets irritated at his pop star worshiping little sister. He's trying to make her into a cool indie girl, and she just wants to bop to whatever it is her friends listen to.)
"Just Listen" refers to Annabel listening to others, people listening to Annabel, and Annabel listening to herself. It is also about music; Owen loves music, and insists that Annabel listen to it. And while Annabel doesn't always agree with his taste, she finds her voice by saying what she likes about his music and what she doesn't like; and as she learns to speak up about music, she begins to speak up about other things. Like the real reason why her best friend no longer talks to her and makes her life a living hell.
Owen's music: I am so musically clueless that I didn't know when Owen was mentioning a real group or a made up group.
Character crossover: some of the people from Dessen's other books are mentioned (Owen lives for music, so of course the band from This Lullaby makes an appearance; what others did you catch?).
Links: author interview, podcast and playlist at the publisher's website.
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