Just Listen

Written By Sarah Dessen

Theme One: Appearance vs. Reality

Annabel Greene was once just a normal high school student. She may play the role of ¨the girl with everything¨ in the commercials, but she is far from it. Her ¨perfect¨ family is falling apart from the inside out while her older sister, Whitney, suffers from an eating disorder, her other older sister, Kirsten, resents the family for ignoring their problems, and her mother seems to only be surviving by the girls' modeling career, which also may be coming to an end. Annabel's social life is following the same path, while her best friends since elementary school cut her off entirely just in time for the new school year.

Alone and friendless, Annabel finds interest in a misunderstood classmate named Owen. Just like her, he is judged from the start. He is a big bulky man with a history of attending anger management classes. Because of this, Annabel seldom gets the chance to speak to him. After a brief encounter with Sophie, one of Annabel's old friends, she finally gets the chance to talk to Owen. Too bad it's after he catches her throwing up in the bushes next to his usual study spot. From that moment on they slowly get to know each other and become friends. Both Owen and Annabel come to the realizations that first impressions and reputations aren't always the most accurate.

Big image

Theme Two: Facing conflicts instead avoiding them

Annabel has a deathly fear of confrontation. If she has to, she will lie to try and spare people's feelings. This has a way of getting her into trouble. A small example is her lies to her mother. Her mother is much more into modeling than her three daughters combined. Annabel has grown tired of it but refuses to tell her mother in order to ¨protect¨ her. This is the least of Annabel's worries. At the start of the summer, Annabel and her best friend Sophie were attached at the hip. They went everywhere together, the mall, the pool, and to this particular party. Sophie was always off and on with her boyfriend, Will Cash. In the middle of one of Sophie and Will's break ups, Will raped Annabel at an end of the summer party. Annabel was trying to find the guy she came with but was tricked by Will. Of course, Sophie walked in on the whole scene and completely misunderstood it. She said one thing only, ¨slut.¨

Ever since the incident people have completely resented Annabel. She entered the school year with no friends and a fresh reputation. They dubbed her a backstabber, slut, and liar. Instead of facing this conflict, she ignored it without speaking up. This was until she was at one of her modeling photo shoots and overheard one of the new girls, Emily, on the phone with her mother. The same thing had happened to her by the same man. Finally, Owen convinced her to speak up. Emily and Annabel shared details and called the police. They set up a trial where other women came forward to speak against Will. After finally speaking up, Will Cash was charged with second degree rape, and Annabel had her version of a perfect life.

How these themes relate:

Appearance vs. Reality is a fancy way of saying ¨what people assume happened vs. what actually happened.¨For this story, that's exactly what Annabel's conflict was. Everyone assumed that because Annabel was Sophie's best friend, she was a backstabber and got with her boyfriend. Because Annabel avoided the truth, it reinforced the idea. Before long it was too late to confess that she was raped. After finally speaking up in the end, she changed her reality to her appearance.