Outside Reading: Quarter 2
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Top 10 List
1. When Annabel met Sophie- It was the summer after 6th grade and Sophie had just moved to Annabel’s town. They first gained eye contact in the snack bar line at the local pool. Annabel began to look intently at her unfamiliar face, so Sophie rudely asked, “What are you looking are?” With that said, Annabel did not approach her again that day. Seeing that Annabel’s sister, Kirsten, was a popular one, Sophie tries to get in her group of friends, who are all at least 6 years older. Kirsten confronts her and calls her a “stalker.” Later that week, Annabel’s mother mentions they have new neighbors in which there is a girl Annabel’s age. Forced by her mother, Annabel approaches Sophie again asking if she wants to hang out. Disgusted by this invitation, Sophie denies the request. Kirsten hears this and sets Sophie straight. Sophie runs away, leaving her stuff at the pool. At the end of the day, her stuff is still there, so Annabel and her best friend, Clarke, give it another shot and bring Sophie’s stuff to her house. When they got there, Sophie opens door. She’s been crying. Annabel apologizes for her sister. After shedding a few more tears, Sophie introduces herself. After this Sophie is kind of Annabel’s leader. Without her, nothing would have ever gone wrong.
2. Annabel’s first night out- One Saturday night, the summer before 7th grade, Clarke, Annabel, and their new friend, Sophie, were all spending the night at Clarke’s while her parents were at a symphony concert. Their plan was to make a frozen pizza and watch movies- just like always. Then Sophie walked in all dressed up, suggesting they go meet some boys around the pool area. Clarke, being a stickler for principles, did not go for this idea. Annabel had also decided she didn’t want to go until Sophie announced that Annabel’s crush, Chris Pennington, was specifically asking to see her. Now, Annabel was really excited to go, but she was torn between two friends and two ideas; one being familiar, the other exciting and new. It ended up that Clarke stayed home while Annabel and Sophie went to the pool. That night, Annabel had her first beer along with her first kiss. But the image she remembers the most was a small girl with dark hair and no makeup telling her it was time to go. While confusion fluttered around the boys, Sophie clarified that it was just Ca-larke. Annabel thought about leaving, but the fear of standing up to Sophie kept her there. Later that night, she went back to Clarke’s, but there was no response. The next day, Clarke wouldn’t even speak to her. Although Annabel was upset, that was that and her and Clarke’s 7-year-long friendship had ended. This event is significant to the book because it serves as an excellent example of Annabel’s fear of confrontation, which is a main conflict in the book. It shows that even when she was younger, she had the same issues with herself. Had this particular event not occurred, Annabel would have been “safe”, but also with a true best friend.
3. Owen Armstrong- Owen was the new kid at school sophmore year. He looks big and strong, some say he looks scary. This image intensified when he got into a fight a month into school for which he got suspended. On the first day of school junior year, Annabel became intrigued with him, as it was only him and her who were eating lunch alone on the wall. She saw he was never without an ipod, his head constantly bobbing to his music, and that he wore two identical, flat, wide, and silver rings on the middle finger of each hand. One day, after he sees Annabel has had a rough day, he offers to drive her home, and then, their relationship begins. She realizes that his looks are deceiving; in reality, he is calm, caring, and above all, honest. Throughout the book, Owen teaches Annabel countless lessons about life. The most important lesson he taught her was to be direct and focused on what she is trying to tell someone instead of being afraid of confrontation. Without Owen, Annabel might have continued to live a miserable life because she would have been afraid to tell her friends and family that she was miserable.
4. Enlightened listeners- As he is nearing insanity through his obsession of music, Owen believes his taste in music is only appreciated by the “enlightened.” In an effort to please and relate to these “enlightened” people, Owen has his own radio show “Anger Management” on a local community radio station WRUS. Since this show is on at 7 am on Sunday morning, Owen believes only the real “enlightened” listeners will actually listen to his show as they are obsessed with music to the extent that they will hinder their sleep in order to listen to it. On his radio station, Owen is known to play music no one would have ever heard of before without some serious research. However, there is variety in his musical choices: he plays anything from bird chirping to shrieking heavy metal to upbeat techno. Although Annabel is not fond of his music, she continues to listen to his radio show. Through listening to his show, she realizes she needs to open her mind to new ideas in order to broaden her understanding of the world and, most importantly, understand herself.
5. Confrontation- Throughout her entire life up to this point, Annabel has had an extreme fear of confrontation. For example, she had difficulty telling her mother that she no longer wished to pursue modeling. She had been involved with modeling since she was little, as had her two older sisters, Whitney and Kirsten. Once her sisters had stopped modeling, Annabel was the only connection her mother had to the modeling world; and her mother loved that world. She loved talking with agents, she loved the makeup, and she loved the time she got to spend with her daughters. So when Annabel came to the conclusion that she did not want to model anymore, she could not come to tell her mother. And so she sacrificed her own happiness for the happiness of her mother. Though a courteous gesture, Owen explains to Annabel that it is unhealthy to keep feelings bottled up inside. Through his assistance, Annabel finally confronted her mother about quitting modeling. Though a few tears were shed, her mother compensated by becoming the receptionist at Annabel’s former agent’s office. Everything always works out for the best.
6. Honesty- Along with a fear of confrontation, Annabel, of course, has an issue with remaining honest. As in the example of modeling, Annabel was neither honest with her mother, nor herself. She should have told her mother that she wanted to quit modeling at the moment when she realized it. Unfortunately, she didn’t causing her to suffer through the unhappiness her dishonesty brought her. When Annabel first begins to talk to Owen, she finds him fascinating. One particular trait that differs Owen from every other person Annabel knows is that he is always honest. He does not spit the truth out uninvited, but he will reply to you in thorough honesty if you ask him his opinion. This is fascinating to Annabel because she cannot help but lie. Luckily, meeting him changes her ways; she was always entirely honest with him: about her dislike of his music or about her problems. In becoming honest with Owen, Annabel learns to apply this quality to her everyday life. As a result, Annabel seems to be much happier and much more satisfied with her life.
7. Annabel’s Assault- At an end of school party sophomore year, a terrible event scarred Annabel’s life. Because they was in a minor disagreement with Sophie, Annabel and Emily decided to hang out with two guys, Nick and Michael, Annabel knew from her art history class. Emily played pool with Michael while Annabel talked to Nick. As he was extremely drunk, Annabel offered to get Nick some water. Upon returning to game room, Annabel hears someone whispering her name from a nearby bedroom. Assuming it is Nick, Annabel enters the room to give him his water. Immediately realizing something was not right, Annabel reaches for the knob to leave the room. A hand closed over her wrist and she knew it wasn’t Nick. The person grabbed her, threw her on the bed, and began to unbutton her pants. Although she put up a strong fight, she could not push him off of her. Fortunately, someone heard something. But unfortunately that person was Sophie. And the rapist was Sophie’s boyfriend, Will Cash. Will quickly made up a story and Sophie believed him. What a friend! Soon everyone was calling Annabel a slut, but since she had a problem with being honest, she kept quiet about her side of the story. These feelings inside her led to her leprosy that summer and the following year.
8. Emily’s Assault- Due to the fact that Will Cash raped Annabel, one can assume that his heart is so cold and small that he would be a repeat offender. And he was. About 7 months after assaulting Annabel, Will assaulted Emily, Annabel’s former friend and co-model. The difference between the two assaults, however, was that Emily told. Emily spoke up. Everyone believed Emily’s story, and she was taking the case to court. Emily also realized that the same thing happened to Annabel, and so she asked her to appear in court with her. However, Annabel was reluctant, until she listened to a CD Owen made her, Just Listen. After listening to that, Annabel told her story to Owen, who encouraged her to tell the story to her family. Then, she agreed to go to court. They won, and Will was sentenced to jail. Without the assaulting of Emily, Annabel probably would not have spoken up and would have continued to be aching inside.
9. Just Listen- Along with being the book’s title, it was the CD Owen made Annabel that pretty changed her life by taking her out of her misery. Expecting something soothing or extremely out of the ordinary, Annabel was shocked when she found out that the CD was actually blank. Confused at first, she soon realized how genius this idea was. Many times before, Owen had mentioned that silence to him was “so freaking loud”. Annabel had not really understood why though until she listened to this CD. Although the CD was silent, she heard a voice when she listened to the CD. It was then that she came to the realization that the voice inside her head, the one constantly begging for her attention, was not Will Cash’s but her own. It was trying to tell her that it needed to be let out. The next day, when it was released, it seized to exist. The voice had been pestering her for longtime after the assault explaining her lack of enthusiasm for life and for relationships. Once it was released, she was free to be herself again while being more honest and less afraid of confrontation.
10. New Year’s- After everything was let out and the court case ended, it was finally New Year’s, a time to celebrate the past and move on forward to the brilliant future. Everything was looking up for Annabel. She was free of her fears, she was honest, she had a boyfriend, Owen, and most importantly she had a family. At the New Year’s party, Kirsten’s boyfriend Brian snapped a shot of the family. It was not perfect by any means- no magnificent background, no fake smiles, no formal poses, unexpected. But Annabel loved it because it was what everyone looked like. It reminded her of her new life and her new self. She no longer had secrets locked up in her heart. She had a fresh start and she was going to make it as enjoyable and honest as possible.