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Literature / Just Listen

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Just Listen is a 2006 young adult novel by Sarah Dessen.


This novel contains examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: Annabel's parents have no idea Whitney has an eating disorder until she freaks out at a family dinner. They also don't know Annabel was assaulted by Will Cash until near the end. A fairly reasonable example however, her mother does try to be part of her life and both parents normally talked to Whitney and Kirsten while they were in New York. It's more of a case of Selective Obliviousness - like Annabel, they want their lives to be perfect, and try to ignore anything that's different.
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  • Affably Evil: Will Cash.
  • Alpha Bitch: Sophie.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Mallory, Owen's little sister. Owen thinks she's annoying, Annabel thinks she's cute.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Clarke.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Will Cash regularly cheats on Sophie and sexually assaults both Annabel and Emily.
  • Beast and Beauty: Annabel and Owen are mocked for this when they first begin spending time together. The beast refers more to Owen's infamous anger issues than his appearance.
  • Beta Couple: Clarke and Rolly.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Kirsten to Annabel and Whitney. She defends Annabel when Sophie is mean to her the first day they meet, and she's the one who tell their parents about Whitney's eating disorder, even though she hates her for it for a while.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Yeah, Ronnie Waterman was not the brightest picking a fight with Owen, who knocked him out in one hit.
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  • Cassandra Truth: Kirsten tries to warn the family about Whitney's eating disorder, but isn't believed until Whitney's meltdown at a family dinner months later.
  • Catchphrase: Owen's Anger Management phrases, like "Placeholder". Annabel finds herself picking them up later in the novel.
  • Character Overlap: Remy, Dexter, and the rest of Truth Squad from This Lullaby have an extended cameo. As mentioned below, Annabel and Owen also see Wes and Macy from The Truth About Foreverin a diner.
  • Continuity Nod: The World of Waffles, a restaurant introduced in The Truth About Forever, is featured, and Annabel happens to see Wes and Macy from the same novel eating at the counter.
  • Cool Big Sis:
    • Kirsten immediately jumps to Annabel's defence when Sophie is rude to her, though Annabel is mortified at Kirsten causing a scene.
    • Whitney takes awhile but eventually becomes this.
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  • Declaration of Protection: Owen seems to have shades of this towards Annabel, especially as he punches Will Cash out after Annabel confesses to him about being sexually assaulted.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Annabel, until she befriends Owen.
  • Fatal Flaw: Annabel's habit of running away from her problems and never speaking up result in much of her turmoil in the story - she passively goes along with what Sophie wants until Sophie dumps her as a friend, she never reports Will Cash until someone else does first, never takes the first step to try and fix things with Clarke and hides from Owen after her Freak Out at the club. The rest of her family (specifically her mom and Whitney) show that this is an inherited trait.
  • Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Annabel to Sophie. Later, Emily to Sophie as well.
  • Genki Girl: Owen's little sister Mallory.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Kirsten and Whitney, with Annabel as a neutral party.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Owen and Annabel, although Annabel is 5' 8", not short by any means; she just looks so when sitting next to 6' 4" Owen.
  • The Ingenue: Emily, but she's not quite as naive as Annabel thinks.
  • Loners Are Freaks: The opinion of Owen Armstrong held by most of Jackson High School. Though, to be fair, this is also caused by his anger issues.
  • Love at First Punch: Owen's friend Rolly falls for Clarke when she punches him while he's working as an attacker at the mall.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Ssh, Annabel. It's just me."
  • Meganekko: Clarke.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Inverted. Whitney, the middle daughter, is causing most of the family drama and thus Annabel, the youngest daughter, is overlooked. However, part of the reason Whitney had so much drama was because she felt overlooked as the middle sister.
  • Never My Fault: Not a direct example, but Sophie never blames Will Cash for cheating on her, she always blames the girl he cheats on her with. Including Annabel, whom Will assaulted.
  • Precision F-Strike: Sophie delivers plenty of cruel slurs to Annabel, usually either "bitch" or "slut" and almost always in a crowded place.
  • Prone to Tears: Annabel's mother. After Annabel finally tells her family that Will Cash assaulted her she's stunned to realise that her mother is comforting her father instead of the other way around.
  • Rape as Drama: Annabel was sexually assaulted by Will, and Sophie blamed her for it. The same thing happens to Emily halfway through the novel, but unlike Annabel, Emily immediately tells her mother and then the police, which leads to Will getting arrested and tried for the crime.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Annabel's sisters, with Kirsten being the red to Whitney's blue.
  • Serious Business: Owen treats music as this.
  • Shout-Out: A joke is made at Annabel's name by saying, "Annabel, Annabel, Annabel Greene."
  • Shrinking Violet: Annabel thinks she is one for a long time, but ultimately edges more into Silk Hiding Steel territory.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Whitney and Kirsten.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Something of a theme. Whitney's striking beauty is repeatedly mentioned as a big asset in the modeling world, but it was her career as a model that ended up leading to her eating disorder. Annabel and Emily, meanwhile, end up unwittingly attracting the attention of Will Cash. Kirsten also comments that she felt like because she was a beauty. It's part of the novel's larger theme of appearance vs reality.
  • Stab the Scorpion: Annabel gets into a car with Owen, who has a reputation for anger management issues. He takes out a hammer and she starts imagining headlines of her murder when he carefully buckles her in—the seat belt on the passenger seat is broken and has to be hit.
  • Stepford Smiler: Annabel.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Annabel.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Owen towards Annabel after she freaks out at the club and runs away.
    • Clarke calls Annabel out when the latter finally reaches out to her several years after they fell out, pointing out that Annabel completely ditched her to hang out with the popular kids and simply stayed away after Clarke rejected her initial apology without making any further attempts at making up.
  • With Friends Like These...: Sophie.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Will Cash regularly cheats on Sophie. She sticks by him and always blames the girls he cheats with and not him, even when it becomes clear that he has been sexually assaulting them.

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