Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Released: February 28, 2008
Genre: YA Contemporary
Annabel Greene is the girl who has everything. At least, that's what she portrays in her modeling shoots. But Annabel's life is far from perfect. Her friendship with Sophie ended bitterly, and her older sister's eating disorder is weighing down the entire family. Isolated and ostracized at school and at home, Annabel retreats into silent acceptance. Then she meets Owen - intense, music-obsessed, and determined to always tell the truth. And with his guidance, Annabel learns to just listen to herself and gains the courage to speak honestly. But will she be able to tell everyone what really happened teh night she and Sophie stopped being friends?It's obvious from almost the very beginning that Annabel experienced something very traumatic, but it's not revealed until a ways into the book. Which only makes it scarier, the way Annabel hears a nameless voice whispering something that should be reassuring but instead sends shivers down your spine from the terror it evokes in Annabel. And that's kind of the whole point of the book - the way Annabel doesn't allow herself to acknowledge anything out of the normal, the way she pushes everything deep down inside herself, refuses to talk about it, definitely not with anyone else but not even with herself. Owen, with his forthright honesty cultivated both by his Anger Management and his really endearing family, eases her into opening up by discussing their very different tastes in music (and come on, who actually likes the kind of music Owen likes?) in a completely confrontational but also safe way.
But as happens in real life, which Sarah Dessen always gets so exactly, Annabel isn't miraculously cured because of Owen. She has to face things herself, and she doesn't - and so she loses everything all over again. I felt like screaming at her as she made the dumbest decision again and again simply because she feared confrontation and jumped to conclusions about what other people were thinking. I also teared up a bit, because to a lesser extent I do the same thing. That's another great thing about Sarah Dessen's books - you always find something to relate to in every single book.
But the way Annabel finally takes a deep breath and gets the courage to face every horrible terrible thing that's happening in her life - that's beautiful. Because it takes such tremendous strength to stop ruining your life by hiding behind a facade of "everything is just fine." We know all along that Annabel is strong, but she proves it even more when she is partly the catalyst for her family's change and when she takes her life back in her own hands. When she repeats Owen's own words back to him, it becomes obvious that not only did Owen help her, she helps him, and that's just so perfect.