I love to take young adult lit to the beach. It’s great for breezing through in a few days usually, and often doesn’t require that strict attention be paid to every single line. I brought Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen to the beach with me a few weeks ago but it turns out that was a silly first time mom mistake. Ha! Reading more than one book at the beach with a toddler? I was a fool. In any case I still read it when I came home and it was a nice breezy (ish) read before I dug into the non-fiction my book club has scheduled for August.
Annabel Greene is 16 and just returning to school after a lonely summer. At the end of the previous school year something went down between she and her ‘bff’ Sophie, and we spend the rest of the novel pretty much knowing what happened but waiting for Annabel to narrate it for the details. I use bff loosely, as from what I read about Sophie she sounded like a horrible person and one of those friends you have that isn’t really your friend, but it’s just easier to ignore her bad qualities until it’s unavoidable. While eating lunch alone at school, Annabel befriends infamous loner Owen, and the two bond over music and bacon. Owen is the first person she has felt comfortable being mostly honest with – perhaps because due to some legally-required anger management therapies, Owen is nothing BUT honest. Can Annabel ever overcome her tendency to please others at the expense of herself?
I enjoyed this book and identified with Annabel in one significant way. I am definitely a people pleaser; Annabel has an older sister with a serious eating disorder and a mother with a tendency toward severe depression, so she walks on eggshells at home as well as school. Something horrible happens to her friendship and she can’t speak up for herself even when things are totally misunderstood. She hates modeling but sees that managing the careers of her and her sisters is what keeps her mom happy. The subject matter is a bit heavy for a beach read, so I suppose it was serendipitous I didn’t have the time to attack it. For the most part, I enjoyed the side characters (Annabel’s family, Owen, Rolly, etc). Sophie is seriously annoying from day one and it’s actually pretty hard to believe anyone ever wanted to be her friend. She’s totally a mean girl. This book wasn’t Pulitzer material, of course, but it was entertaining enough to kill time I until my next heavy.