Having agreed to participate in this wonderful celebration that Adele is organising, I sat down to write … and didn’t know what to say. This despite the fact that I think Sarah Dessen is one of the best young adult authors out there. I didn’t even know what my theme should be. Family, friends, relationships, interesting plots, beautiful writing, Sarah’s books have it all. This makes it very difficult to choose a single topic to talk about. So I’ve just picked a small thing that made me think when I was reading Just Listen.
Annabel has to tell.
The main thing that struck me as I read Just Listen was the difference in the sisters. Kirsten is the vocal one, Whitney is the quiet one. Annabel explains to Owen how she can tell when something is wrong with each of them, but doesn’t mention that they don’t know when she has a problem. Instead, she tells him that he’d have to ask her sisters to find out how they know about her. Which in fact turns out to be true as Whitney shares later;
‘That was her role, always, as the youngest. She was the one who told.’
In other words, Annabel has to tell. This made me realise how precarious their relationship was, that her family only knew something was wrong with Annabel because she told them. Because when something really bad happens, people find it hard to talk about it and so in Annabel’s case, no-one will know. It’s an incredible act of bravery, to have to sit down and tell someone something.
It also makes me wonder which I am most like. How do people know when there’s something wrong with me? How do I know when there’s something wrong with my friends? A lot of times, I can tell something is wrong by how they act, and I’ll ask if they’re ok, then just try to be normal and wait for it to come out.
I used to email my best friend every day. I mean really, really long emails where we would just talk rubbish. Even though we saw each other every day. This was originally to waste time in sixth form when we had a break but it got a lot more important when she dropped out and started a job. For the first time in years we didn’t see each other every day but we did still email. And in that time, she had a big problem.
The way I found out was, she emailed me checking my address still worked (of course it did, we’d been emailing every day at the time) and telling me that there was something she needed to tell me. Then of course I emailed back concerned and (I hope) encouraging, asking about the problem. This seems to be how we ask for help when people have no way of knowing. We hint at a problem and wait for the other person to ask for more details. Because no-one likes having to admit that they need help, they wait for someone to offer first.
There are plenty of other reasons that I love the character Annabel, but this is a big one. Telling someone something that they don’t want to hear is hard, especially if the other people have no idea anything’s wrong. If I was Annabel, even after I’d decided to tell my family, I wouldn’t have sat down and told them. I’d have acted as if something was wrong and then waited for them to ask me. I didn’t realise this until I read the book.
So thank you Sarah for giving us such wonderful characters to relate to and for putting so much thought and time into each book. Have a good birthday!
Hannah is one of the lovely British bloggers I have had the pleasure of getting to know this year. She has a smashing blog called About Books that you should definitely check out! (And yes, that is the awesomely headless Hannah in the photo.)
Tomorrow – Cheryl Renee Herbsman, author of Breathing.