Annabel’s life is perfect. Or, at the very least, it seems that way. She’s a model, she lives in a beautiful house, and until last May, she had a popular best friend in Sophie. Then…well, let’s just say everything falls apart. Sophie has a vendetta against Annabel; everyone is looking at her (and not in a good way) and talking about her. On top of that, her older sister is dealing with anorexia. And it’s all Annabel can do to keep all the bad stuff in and everything looking perfect on the outside.
Then she meets Owen. Owen, who has anger management issues. Owen, who is so passionate about music that he listens to things that ordinary people wouldn’t consider to be music. Owen, who is honest — almost brutally so. Owen, who may be exactly what Annabel needs to get through everything that’s been going on in her life, if she’ll only listen.
There are a lot of issues going on in the book, but one of the reasons Dessen is so popular is that she handles them beautifully without being heavy-handed. Sure, there are tough subjects in the book — from rape to parental control to peer pressure to anorexia — but they’re always treated with compassion and humor.
More than her grace in dealing with difficult subjects, Dessen creates fantastic characters. From Owen, who is just made of awesome, to his friend Rolly, who is so cute you want to wrap him up and put him in your pocket to take out when you’re feeling down. Even Annabel herself is admirable — considering all the crap that goes on in her life, she manages it quite admirably, and very, well, realistically.
It’s the combination of those two things, though, that makes the book so engrossing. Which is definitely not something you can say about every author.
Rated: High, for language, teenage drinking, and one male character strongly pressuring the main character to have sex with him, plus an instance of rape.