Roundtable: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
March 1st, 2008 (07:45 pm)
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Mystery Woman score music
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Mystery Woman score music
I head up postergirlz, the book advisory council for readergirlz. We were all very taken with Just Listen, our book group pick for March 2008, so we set up a virtual roundtable to discuss it further. We hope this post will encourage you to read the book and post your thoughts at the readergirlz forum. Miss Erin was unable to attend the roundtable, but the other council members - Jackie, Alexia, HipWriterMama, and me, Little Willow - were present and very chatty. Feel free to Just Listen in!
HipWriterMama: I can't believe I read Just Listen in one sitting.
Little Willow: Go HipWriter Mama! I'm proud.
HWM: I put off reading the book, because the cover art didn't appeal to me. I figured I'd read a couple chapters and by then, I couldn't put the book down. It was really good.
Alexia: I read it in one sitting too! I completely ignored all of my homework, that was a problem the next day, but it was totally worth it!
LW: (said knowingly, not scolding) Do your homework, young lady.
Jac: I actually started Just Listen on audio book during a long trip. I was down to the last two CDs when I got home, and I just couldn't wait for the next time I got in the car, so I had to dig up the book and read it to the end right after I got home!
HWM: Are there really teenage boys like Owen out there?
LW: I certainly didn't know any when I was in high school. Did any of you?
Jac: I don't think I would have been brave enough to find out. But I think that boys are far more sensitive then anyone likes to admit.
Alexia: If there are, they are not in my school. At least, they don't admit to being like that. I think I would drop dead of shock if I ran into someone like Owen at my school.
HWM: I don't think I ever knew teenage boy that was that into honesty and communication. It would have plain freaked me out back in my commitment phobic years. But now, if I could go back as a teen, Owen would be a wow in my book.
LW: Would you dare to live in a glass house?
HWM: Nope. Though all the sunlight would be amazing.
Jac: Dude. I don't like people looking at me in the best of circumstances. There's no way I'd be cool with them looking at me when I'm not aware. That's just creepy.
LW: I wouldn't be worried about what others thought of me, but I would be concerned for my personal safety.
Alexia: I don't know if I would necessarily, but I wouldn't mind maybe a glass kitchen? Maybe. That seems like an okay place to be visible. Maybe I just don't spend enough time in the kitchen, warming mac & cheese doesn't really tell people a lot about you - except that you can't cook.
LW: Macaroni plus cheese equals yum. Speaking of food, I love the scene when Owen invites Annabel out for bacon, and she learns about Owen and Rolly's tradition at the Morning Cafe. This is also the scene in which The Truth About Forever characters Wes and Macy cameo, though their names are never stated. I love that so much.
Alexia: I totally noticed Wes and Macy! I miss those guys.
LW: Me too. I think Wes and Owen would get along. I loved how Owen was so attuned to music, even if it wasn't necessarily my kind of music.
Alexia: Not only was he attuned to music, he had no problems sharing his unique views on different types of music. That's what really struck me about him.
LW: Music is a big part of my life, but I'd rather listen to my own mixes than the mainstream radio. I enjoy a wide variety of music. I love musical soundtracks, classical music, and film score music, but I also love the music and lyrics of Duncan Sheik, Jonatha Brooke, and Jimmy Eat World.
Alexia: My favorite musicians change often. At the moment, my favorite is probably Elton John, but that may be a phase. I think that any music that puts me into a good mood is good music. But I'm not excluding sad songs, because they can be beautiful too, like Dancing by Elisa.
LW: Which characters did you relate to or enjoy the most?
Jac: I totally love Annabel's sister Whitney. The scenes where she's tending her window garden were great. Maybe it's obvious symbolism, that Whitney could heal and grow through caring for plants, but there was a poignancy and even some humor that I really appreciated.
Alexia: Strange as it may seem I think I'm a mixture of Annabel and her oldest sister Kirsten. Some things I keep really private and I am great at keeping my emotions in check, but the first thing people seem to notice about me is a loud personality. The personality, however, rarely reflects important things.
HWM: I want to have a ring with Or Not engraved on the inside.
Alexia: Yes, yes, yes! A ring, the key necklace from Lock and Key, and the sculptures from The Truth About Forever. I can open a whole shop. Little Willow and I are going to make key necklaces.
LW: We really are. She just got the keys. Back to Annabel: Did you see the big reveal of past events coming? Was it a surprise? or a letdown? or an "I knew it!" reaction?
Jac: One of the things that I like about Just Listen is that she wasn't raped, and how traumatic the assault is - it doesn't have to go that far to still have a life-changing impact. It was a interesting choice for Dessen to make, as YA is often about the extremes, so it's much more expected for there to have been a full blown rape.
LW: The scene with the assault was shocking. It wasn't graphic nor was it dirty. It happened quickly, as quickly as the assault happened. He violated her body with his, and he did so without her consent, so I definitely think it was a form of rape.
Alexia: I think what Jackie pointed out was that this form of violation isn't usually found in YA novels which focus more on the emotional outcomes due to being sexually abused. I think that while both forms are abhorrent, Anabelle's is much less discussed and often
overlooked. The actual rape was prevented, but the consequences remained.
Jac: Wasn't Just Listen challenged?
LW: It was challenged at a high school in Florida, but fortunately, it has stayed on their shelves! I wrote an entire post about it, and I'll post some relevant links at the end of our roundtable for our online readers. I support all of Sarah's novels. I started with years ago with Dreamland, then went back to That Summer, her first published novel, and read all of her books which were available at that time in the order they were published. I've been following her new releases ever since.
Jac: The first book I finally picked up of Dessen's was Dreamland. I was subbing one hot summer at a tiny little library. It wasn't terribly busy and I was going through and weeding (the process where librarians get rid of books that are gross or falling apart or just not leaving the library) the teen section. I wasn't really into the book I was reading, so on my break I grabbed Dreamland. I remember sitting in the break room, absolutely absorbed from the first page. Caitlin was so clearly grieving over her sister. Her pain was palpable, and I wanted to see what happened to that relationship, what happened to Cass, and how Caitlin finds herself outside of her idolatry of her sister.
HWM: I just started reading Dreamland this afternoon.
Alexia: I started with Lock and Key and I loved it. Now I've read Just Listen and The Truth About Forever too. Both were absolutely amazing!
Jac: I have such high expectations from Dessen - so high that I haven't gone out and immediately read all of her books. I want to save them and savor them when I need the sort of emotional fulfillment that she always provides. I'm also afraid that, since there's a very similar tone to her books, if I read them right in a row, I won't appreciate them as much as I would if I spread them out a bit.
Alexia: Hmm. I read three in a short time and I had no trouble appreciating her, but I do see what you mean about the tone being similar.
LW: That's not necessarily a bad thing. Each story still stands on its own, I think. My favorite Sarah Dessen book is The Truth About Forever. Does anyone else have a favorite?
Alexia: Just Listen is my favorite, hands down. I absolutely loved everything about it! Owen rocks, Anabelle is great, and the story is wonderfully plotted. The Truth About Forever comes in at a close second though. I didn't get as into Wes and Macy's relationship as I did with Owen and Annabel.
Jac: I've been saving The Truth About Forever and This Lullaby to read when I really need a comfort read, as those are the ones most people I know claim as their favorites.
Alexia: I haven't read This Lullaby, but I know a few people who say that's their favorite as well. Maybe I'm subconsciously saving it?
HWM: Prior to reading Just Listen, I hadn't read any other Sarah Dessen books, but I will definitely read them now.
LW: That sounds just like what Alexia said to me after she read Lock and Key.
More about the Just Listen challenge:
Challenges to Just Listen by Sarah Dessen in Tampa, FL
They Tried to Ban This Book Today, or, There's a Sticker on the Cover of This Book
School Says Book Can Stay
Some of Sarah's posts regarding the matter:
December 12th, 2007
December 13th, 2007
December 14th, 2007
January 11th, 2008
Want to discuss this and other books with readers from all over the world? Visit the readergirlz forum.
Check out other roundtable book discussions at Bildungsroman as well as my reviews of Sarah Dessen's novels.
A few months after the postergirlz held this roundtable, my friend Suze and I talked about all of Sarah's books.
Watch Melissa Walker interview Sarah Dessen on rgz TV (the readergirlz YouTube channel).