when Annabel, the youngest of three beautiful sisters, has a bitter falling out with her best friend--the popular and exciting Sophie--she suddenly finds herself isolated and friendless. but then she meets owen--a loner, passionate about music and his weekly radio show, and always determined to tell the truth. And when they develop a friendship, Annabel is not only introduced to new music but is encouraged to listen to her own inner voice. with owen's help, can Annabel find the courage to speak out about what exactly happened the night her friendship with Sophie came to a screeching halt?
Annabel Greene, who narrates, lives with her gorgeous sisters in a glass house designed by their architect father, in Dessen's (This Lullaby) familiar suburb of Lakeview. Predictably, the surface perfection masks trouble. Oldest sister Kirsten, "the family powder keg," has left for New York. When middle sister Whitney follows to pursue a modeling career, the two clash, and Whitney returns home with a full-blown eating disorder. Their mother, Grace, operates in what Annabel wryly calls the "default Greene family mode," pretending everything is just fine. Annabel, who inherited this trait, nevertheless begins her junior year as a pariah. Flashbacks reveal that her unwanted status is the result of something that happened with the boyfriend of her ex-best friend, a vicious girl who believes "everyone had a place and it was her job to make sure you knew yours." What moves this story beyond problem novel fare is Dessen's nuanced characters, especially hulking Owen, another outcast who, in befriending Annabel, reminds her not to judge by appearances, while steeping her in his eclectic musical tastes. Annabel sharply observes everyone's blinders, including most of her own-with one disturbing exception. The heroine paints her problem as social ostracism, when really the situation is much more serious. But since Annabel "[doesn't] do confrontations," she swallows the truth until her attacker victimizes someone else. Comparisons to Melinda, the heroine of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, are inevitable. Dessen packs a lot into this novel, perhaps too much; but Annabel and Owen's finely limned connection alone gives this novel staying power. Ages 12-up (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 27, 2008
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