Just Listen (2006) is a novel written by teen-author Sarah Dessen. It is her seventh published novel. Plot summary Annabel Greene is a girl who has it all – at least, that’s how it seems on TV commercials. Annabel’s life is far from perfect. Though, some thought that Annabel had everything people often forgot that what she wanted most was to live a normal life.
Her friendship with the cruel, dramatic Sophie ended on a night she can’t bear to remember; her sister Whitney moves back home because of her eating disorder, making her moody and distant, she wants to quit modeling, but can’t bear to tell her mom, and she is now an outsider at her school. Then, she meets Owen Armstrong, a boy who has anger management problems and is obsessed with music. He always tells the truth no matter what, and Annabel starts developing a close bond with him, even though they are nothing alike. With his help, Annabel may start facing her fears – and more importantly, speaking the truth.
This story has a strong moral message and changes all the characters in some way. Characters Annabel Greene: The main character of the novel and the youngest of three sisters. Annabel used to be popular, but was almost raped by Will Cash, and her so-called best friend, Sophie, thought she was sleeping with him. As a result, she loses all of her friends and becomes a loner. She is a model, but wants to quit. Annabel has a hard time telling her mother, as she hates any confrontation of any kind. She has a habit of not telling the truth so she can try to spare people’s feelings.
She meets Owen Armstrong, and develops a close bond with him. She lets him in, which she doesn’t do with any other person. The pair don’t speak to one another for months after a misunderstanding. Only when Emily comes to talk to Annabel about Will sexually assaulting her and speaking at a trial to have him convicted does she confront Owen after his radio show one Sunday morning. She confesses what’s happened in her life since that party, and lets him convince her to testify at the trial and starts a relationship with him after they share a kiss after the trial.
Owen Armstrong: A music obsessed, broody boy, who is a loner. He also has a little and very annoying sister, Mallory, who is obsessed with Annabel Greene. He had anger problems in the past which caused him to go to Anger Management classes. He meets and develops a close bond with Annabel Greene, whom he falls in love with. Along the way, he teaches her what is important, and to speak the truth. He also has his own radio show named, incidentally, Anger Management that airs every Sunday morning at seven.
Once he discovers what Will did to Annabel he goes to see him where a band he knew he liked was playing “just to look at him” but ends up punching him instead giving him a black eye. Owen in the end of the novel, starts a relationship with her after explaining why he missed the trial and shares a kiss with her. Sophie: A cruel girl, who was Annabel’s best friend for four years. Originally, she was dead-set on being friends with Kirsten, but that didn’t exactly work out, so she settled for Annabel, figuring she’d have someone to boss around.
Annabel chooses Sophie’s friendship over Clarke’s, who was her best friend prior to Sophie’s arrival. Sophie was shown to be bossy, rude, and cruel to people, especially Annabel. She stops being friends with Annabel after thinking she slept with her boyfriend, Will. At the end of the novel, she ends up alone, with no friends and no boyfriend. Whitney Greene: Annabel and Kirsten’s middle sister, who is said to be beautiful, and was also a model. Whitney develops anorexia, weighing down the whole family.
She becomes moody and distant, but starts redeeming herself at the end of the novel, thanks to her psychiatrist, Moira. Kirsten Greene: Annabel and Whitney’s oldest sister, Kirsten used to be a model, but quit. She was very rebellious during her teenage years. She and Whitney stop talking to each other, though. Kirsten goes to college and enjoys her classes. She is cheery and bubbly, and has a habit of over-talking, but as the novel reaches its end, the reader finds that Kirsten has learned that listening is just as important as being heard, if not more.
Emily: A girl who Annabel met at a last calendar shoot for Lakeview Models. She later abandons Annabel to be friends with Sophie instead, after Annabel becomes a loner. She almost gets raped by Will Cash, and, like Annabel, this ends her friendship with Sophie. However, unlike Annabel, she tells authorities about Will, and gets Will arrested for doing a second-degree rape. Clarke: A girl who used to be Annabel’s best friend, but it ended one night when Annabel chose Sophie over her, later regretting her decision.
Annabel thought Clarke hated her, when in reality, she thought Annabel hated her. It appears as though she and Rolly are dating since Annabel vaguely introduced them at Bendos while waiting for the Truth Squad to come onto stage. They repair their friendship at the end of the book. Will Cash: Sophie’s boyfriend who second-degree raped Annabel, Emily, and other unknown girls. Will is arrested after Emily reports him and he winds up in jail. Owen punched him towards the end of the novel for what he did to Annabel after acting like he didn’t even care about what he’d done.
Mallory Armstrong: Owen’s hyper, pop music loving little sister, adores Annabel because of her modeling abilities and in general. Rolly: Owen’s best friend and Owen’s radio show assistant. Later, he becomes Clarke’s boyfriend. Grace: Annabel’s mom. She enjoys Annabel’s modeling, and is clinging on to that part of Annabel’s life. Her other daughters, Whitney and Kirsten, had already quit modeling, so Annabel was all she had left. She was heart broken when she quit at the end of the novel, but she realized her daughter was growing up, and she could make her own decisions.